Red Rocks Community College Student Supports Sustainable Infrastructure Research

More information: Kimberly Rein

Red Rocks Community College Student Supports Sustainable Infrastructure Research

A Red Rocks Community College student is spending the summer at a large outdoor shake table test facility in San Diego to better prepare urban areas to survive large earthquakes. With urbanization trends, the demands for tall residential and mixed-use buildings are increasing. This research project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) will contribute to new understanding of building resilience in earthquake-prone areas. One Red Rocks student with a strong desire to engage in sustainable design was recruited. The student, Ethan Judy, is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with work experience as an Advanced Electronics Maintenance Specialist and will transfer into electrical engineering at Colorado School of Mines in the Fall.

Red Rocks has been preparing and transferring non-traditional engineering students to Colorado School of Mines for over 20 years. Now that transfer relationship includes hands-on research experiences with Mines faculty over the summer. For the past two summers, 15 Red Rocks students have participated in high-level research as part of Red Rocks STEM Scholars, an NSF-sponsored program to support low-income and/or first-generation community college students in engineering. Two STEM educators at Red Rocks, Liz Cox, Director of the IDEA Institute, and Barbra Sobhani, Director of Honors Program, have partnered with several Mines faculty to open up these important experiences for non-traditional students. 

“Conducting research with professionals in an engineering lab is usually a challenge for community college students. Our students are thankful for these opportunities and really rise to the occasion, often exceeding the expectations of university faculty,” says Cox.

For Ethan, this summer that research opportunity included working with Dr. Shilling Pei, structural engineering faculty at Mines, and the lead principle investigator on a multi-university collaborative project looking into building resilience of tall wood buildings in the range of 8-20 stories using a relatively new heavy timber structural material known as cross-laminated timber (CLT).  Ethan will help design, construct, and test a 2-story CLT building specimen at the world's largest outdoor shake table at NHERI@UCSD (supported by NSF’s Natural Hazard Engineering Research Infrastructure Program). A public test will take place on July 13.

“Collaboration with Red Rocks’ students and faculty through the STEM Scholars program is extremely valuable for this testing project,” says Dr. Pei. “Ethan is doing a great job and taking leadership in overseeing the implementation of the sensors for this test, which is extremely important for the overall testing effort.”

According to Ethan, “This research project has been an incredible opportunity for me and I have learned a tremendous amount from the engineers and graduate students that I have been working with. Being involved in researching the capabilities of Cross Laminar Timber during a seismic event and its subsequent usefulness as a construction material in the U.S. has given me a sense of purpose for the project and has further solidified my decision to become an engineer and have a hand in shaping our world for the better.”

To learn more about the NHERI Tall Wood Project and follow progress over the next few years, see

To learn more about STEM Scholars and engineering at Red Rocks Community College, see

About Red Rocks Community College
Established in 1969, Red Rocks Community College delivers high-quality, affordable education programs leading to two-year degrees or professional certificates. The college serves over 10,000 students per year online and at two campus locations in Lakewood and Arvada.

This material is based upon work supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DUE-143-1264. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017