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American Indian Organization’s Conference to Focus on Green Engineering

Friday, April 1, 2011

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society will host its regional conference April 1 and 2 at the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University.

More than two dozen American Indian engineering, math and science students are expected to attend the event, which will focus on green engineering. The conference was organized by KU AISES members Trudy Curley, Len Necefer and Gene Cody. They say the event provides an opportunity to share ideas and gain insight into the latest eco-friendly engineering trends.

“American Indian identity is tied in with the environment, so for many students, just showing what can be done goes a long way,” said Len Edward Necefer, a mechanical engineering major of Navajo descent from Lawrence, Kan., and La Puebla, N.M. “In many cases that empowerment hasn’t been given, so just showing other students, ‘We did this, you can do it, too, it’s been done,’ goes a long way. In doing that, students don’t think there’s such a big hurdle (to complete their own projects).”

The KU contingent plans to showcase a couple projects that highlight ways to enhance campus and the home community.

“We’ve put a lot of work into this conference, and we hope students will really take something away from it,” said Curley, president of the KU AISES chapter and a mechanical engineering major of Navajo descent. “The best we can do is show other students what we did and urge them to try some of these things.”

One presentation focuses on a rainwater catchment project on a Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico spearheaded by Necefer in conjunction with Craig Adams, the J. L. Constant Distinguished Professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.

“The engineering elements are important, but it’s also important to show how you can take knowledge back (home),” Necefer said. “That’s a concern for most Native American students, how this information can be tied into their home communities. Making that connection for students is important.”

The KU group also plans to discuss its efforts to enhance recycling on campus.

“KU’s engineering diversity programs and an engineering fraternity developed a recycling program to reallocate all materials to one location on campus,” Curley said. “It makes it a lot easier for KU recycling to pick it up.”

Day one of the conference is at Haskell Indian Nations University, a four-year college in Lawrence with an enrollment of hundreds of American Indian students from tribes across the country. The highlights include a presentation on “Climate Change and Indigenous Knowledge” from Haskell professor Dan Wildcat and a presentation on INROADS, a project to develop and place talented minority youths in business and industry and prepare them for corporate and community leadership.

Day two events take place on the KU campus and include presentations from Adams about “Sustainable Sanitation and Water Technologies for Developing Nations” and Chris Depcik, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and faculty adviser for KU Ecohawks, on renewable energy.

The full agenda can be found on the

AISES website


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