New Graduate Spotlight: Brian Jacobsen

Brian Jacobsen
Brian Jacobsen

National Guard soldier builds accessible planters for Community Garden

Brian Jacobsen, 22, graduated May 2019 with an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree in Engineering Fundamentals from Inver Hills Community College. A 2015 graduate of Henry Sibley High School, Brian joined the Minnesota National Guard in 2014. He is a corporal in the 834th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB), an Army National Guard battalion that provides logistics, transportation, medical, maintenance and communications support for the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade.

Brian is exploring the idea of transferring to the University of Minnesota to earn a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (B.M.E.). His career goals are centered on becoming a mechanical engineer, possibly as a private contractor working with the U.S. military. In the near term, Brian plans to continue serving in the Army National Guard. His is looking forward to a promotion to sergeant this fall.

Engineering faculty perspective: Joan Carter

Joan Carter
Joan Carter

Engineering courses and the Associate of Science (A.S.) in Engineering Fundamentals at Inver Hills stand out as a wise starting point if you are interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering at four-year universities. While most students intend to transfer after completing their A.S. degree, this program also prepares students seeking employment with a strong foundation in engineering principles and practices.

Brian Jacobsen has taken several courses with me. He is prepared to take junior-level courses in mechanical engineering. He is a bright and creative student. His solutions to problems are clever and unique, always getting straight to the point. I am really proud of him and grateful for his military service. He is level-headed and smart, a good combination for serving our country.

Brian graduated this May with his A.S. in Engineering Fundamentals. He has served in the Minnesota National Guard since he was in high school. Eventually, Brian will attend a four-year engineering program to complete the last two years of a mechanical engineering bachelor’s degree.

Joan Carter, PE (MN, IA, CA), Engineering Faculty
Inver Hills Community College

Explore Engineering

On Tuesday afternoon, April 30, 2019, Inver Hills engineering students assembled in the Black Box Theatre in the Fine Arts building on campus to participate in the annual Explore Engineering event.

“Explore Engineering gives students in ENGR 1110 Introduction to Engineering and in Engineering Club the opportunity to exhibit their projects to visitors and classmates,” said Joan Carter, engineering faculty. “Each student in ENGR 1110 is required to do a project of their choosing, expanding on something we learned in class. Explore Engineering gives students the experience of talking about their work in a low-stakes environment. Current and prospective students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to attend the showcase to examine the projects and talk with our engineering students.”

At this year’s showcase event, Engineering Club displayed four projects:

  • AR (augmented reality) Sandbox
  • Electric Go-Kart
  • Tiny Whoovs (miniature hovercrafts)
  • Hybrid Solar/Wind Power Source
Brian explaining his project at Explore Engineering 2019
Brian explaining his project at Explore Engineering 2019

Joan reported that Brian Jacobsen’s project was designing and building two raised garden beds (planters) for the Inver Hills–Metro State Community Garden and Orchard. Brian collaborated with Randi Goettl, the college’s director of accessibility resources, to construct planters that would be accessible to everyone who visited the community garden.

Brian used Autodesk Fusion 360, integrated CAD, CAM and CAE software, to design the planters to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. He met with Randi a number times to go over his design concepts. Once the design was finalized, Brian took on what he likes best about mechanical engineering, the hands-on process of building something he designed. His father, Paul, a sheet metalworker, helped out by constructing the planters’ metal linings.

“The biggest obstacle I encountered in the project was that a 2 x 4 really isn’t two inches by four inches,” Brian said with a smile. “Same with a 2 x 8. I knew that, but I forgot to incorporate the difference in the design. When I figured out that problem, I was able make the adjustments I needed to complete the planters.”

Brian and Randi by ADA-compliant raised garden bed
Brian and Randi by ADA-compliant raised garden bed

Accessibility Resources Director Perspective: Randi Goettl

In 2018, I met with Gail Morrison, former executive director of the Inver Hills Foundation, to discuss some donations that have been made to Inver Hills Community College. During that meeting Gail explained that the Elizabeth “Betsy” Pate Foundation of the St. Paul Foundation gave a donation to make the community garden more accessible.

Randi Goettl
Randi Goettl

As the director of accessibility at Inver Hills, my main goal is for everyone to have access to all educational programs and events, which includes the Inver Hills–Metro State Community Garden and Orchard. With that wonderful news of having financial support of the donors, I started browsing the Internet to see what kind of things we could do to make our garden accessible for all those that would like to participate in gardening and volunteering at our school.

I found numerous designs and kits for accessible raised beds that we could purchase and place near the community garden. Then I started brainstorming about how this effort could be more collaborative. I knew there had to be a way I could utilize the knowledge and passion of our students to make designing an accessible garden into an experiential learning opportunity.

I reached out to Joan Carter, Engineering Fundamentals faculty, at the beginning of spring semester to gather information and pitch my idea of having the Engineering Club or an individual student design and build the accessible garden beds. Joan encouraged me come speak to her class (during a test day, nonetheless!) to ask for a volunteer to take on the development of raised gardening beds for his/her semester project.

That initial proposal blossomed into Brian Jacobsen’s semester project. Brian met with me a few times to talk about possible designs, ADA compliance standards and the needs of those who will utilize the raised garden beds.

Brian not only designed our new raised beds, he went above and beyond to build the beds himself. I could not be more proud of Brian for taking charge of this project and making this once frivolous wish come to life. Due to Brian’s hard work and vision, Inver Hills has two raised garden beds that ALL individuals, including those with mobility and physical concerns, can fully appreciate when visiting our gorgeous community garden.

Randi Goettl, Director, Office of Accessibility Resources
Inver Hill Community College

ADA-compliant raised garden bed
Designed and built by Brian Jacobsen, Inver Hills 2019 engineering graduate

Explore Engineering gallery

For more event photos:

Visit Explore Engineering Showcase 2019 on Flickr

More about Brian…

Brian worked while going to Inver, averaging 20 hours per week as a personal care attendant (PCA) at Best Home Care, a healthcare agency in the Twin Cities. He has four siblings, Samantha, 27, a student in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the U of M, Isabelle, 26, a dispatcher for Bite Squad, Andrew, 25, and Cassie, 19, a medical student at the U of M Rochester.

Brian owns a 2-year-old Bernese mountain dog/border collie named Lady Gaga. In his free time, he enjoys playing outfield and shortstop on his league softball team. He’s also in the middle of building a new shed. Brian resides in Eagan, Minnesota.

More about the Office for Accessibility Resources

The Office for Accessibility Resources is dedicated to creating an accessible learning community where individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity to pursue their educational goals, limited only by their abilities, not their disabilities. OAR strives to empower students, foster independence, and promote achievement of the student’s career and educational goals.

Our Core Values

  • Disability is a social identity that is a vital element of our campus community
  • Disability is a social/political category that includes individuals from diverse backgrounds
  • Equal access cannot be achieved through accommodation alone
  • Design that promotes inclusion is a matter of social justice and civil rights
  • Person centered approaches demand leveraging creative solutions
Learn more…

Brian Jacobsen Q & A

Brian Jacobsen
Brian Jacobsen

Why did you choose engineering as your academic and career path?
I’ve always liked engineering. I prefer mechanical engineering over electrical because it’s more hands-on. I like building things.

How would you describe your engineering showcase project?
The raised garden beds were fun to build. I looked up all the ADA requirements and built the planters to specs on a computer using Fusion 360.

Three words that describe you as an engineering student:

What do you like best about mechanical engineering?
You physically touch the projects you’re working on. I like the building process—figuring out what works and what doesn’t. I like to see my work when it’s finished.

What advice would you give students thinking about going into engineering?
Try it out to make sure you like it. Engineering is a field with a lot of diversity.

What is the most challenging aspect of studying engineering?
You take a lot of tough courses—math, calculus, physics. You work with linear and differential equations.

About the Community Garden…

The Inver Hills–Metro State Community Garden and Orchard is an interdisciplinary, cooperative effort involving Inver Hills Community College, Metropolitan State University and members of the community.

The one acre+ communal garden features 40 individual plots, an apple orchard and a 50-seat outdoor classroom used for classes, visiting speakers and concerts. The garden is located behind (east side) Heritage Hall and the Business Building on the Inver Hills campus. The grounds are pesticide free and designed to support organic gardening practices, although not completely organic.

All produce from the communal garden and orchard is donated to food shelves and nonprofit organizations. The Garden Committee welcomes community members to participate in all activities in the communal garden and orchard. Individuals can apply to grow their own food or plants in one 10’ x 10’ individual plot in for the growing season.


Learn more…

Brian Jacobsen 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Baseball
  2. Place you would most like to visit: New Zealand
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Flying in a Blackhawk helicopter
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy an island 2) Build a gigantic statue of myself 3) Build a solar farm
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: Game of Thrones
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Avengers: Endgame
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Build something real important
  8. Your national bird if you could have one: Peregrine falcon
  9. Dream occupation: Mechanical engineer
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Elon Musk
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Welding
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Energy
Learn more about Engineering Fundamentals at Inver Hills by contacting:

Joan Carter, PE (MN, IA, CA)
Engineering Faculty

Learn more about the Office for Accessibility Resources by contacting:

Randi Goettl
Director of Accessibility Resources
Library 207
651-450-3677: Attention: Randi Goettl
MN Relay Services: 800-627-3529

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