BIG POTENTIAL: The stories of our engineering students are intriguing and as diverse as they are. No matter their backgrounds and majors, our students are here with a purpose: to make a BIG difference in people's lives.
Jordan Burchatz | Mitch Klein | Sydney Schaaf
Major/Minor: Biological Systems Engineering / Energy Sciences
Hometown: Omaha, Neb.
Class Year/Graduation: Junior
BIG OPPORTUNITIES: Ashley Schmidt took a year off between high school and college and found a path that motivates her engineering studies and ultimately aims to help the world. Through her church in Omaha, she volunteered for six months at Koutiala Hospital for Women and Children in Mali. She returned to the U.S. to continue her education, but never forgot Mali. She’s already finding a way to apply her learning to help the people in Mali, and beyond. And, at UNL she has gained a team that advances this goal.
BIG MOTIVATION: Schmidt, now a junior, chose to major in Biological Systems Engineering and pursue a minor in Energy Sciences. Through those classes she met fellow student Casey Heier, Michael Trogdon (who majors in mechanical engineering and math), Kyle Curry (a finance major), Chris Johnson (a computer science and economics major) and Chris Lander (an architecture student). With another friend, Grant Stanley, who owns the Omaha consulting firm Contemporary Analysis, they formed World Energy Project (WEP) in August 2010.
WEP has a website and is working on fundraising for administrative costs such as airfare and project technology. Their first project plans to install solar panels to generate a reliable power supply for the hospital in Koutiala. They work with a Dutch engineer and volunteer, Anco Bergeijk, who has helped install such projects in Mali at other outlying clinics.
BIG ASPIRATIONS: Beyond their pilot project with Koutiala, they collaborate with Daniel Thera, former leader of a Mali region (and founder of the Koutiala hospital) to align WEP’s future efforts, including water sanitation and irrigation pumps for public benefit. WEP has also connected with students in Mali’s University of Bamako engineering department.
In Lincoln, BSEN faculty including David Jones and Adam Liska provide sage engineering advice to the group as they make presentations to Rotary groups and prepare grant proposals. Jones said Schmidt is “very bright, and good at getting people together for a cause.”
“With her major, she studies bioproducts (which includes energy), and her minor in energy science has also been a great catalyst,” Jones added. “She has her team for the pilot project, and we talk and work through the current challenges, navigating support here and in Mali. It’s a steep learning curve but she’s doing the leg work to figure out what’s required to move forward.”