Engineering major exploring sustainable energy systems
Andrea White is earning an Associate of Science (A.S.) in Engineering Fundamentals at Inver Hills Community College. Andrea is a sophomore and her focus is on mechanical engineering with a special emphasis on sustainable energy systems. She is on schedule to graduate spring 2020.
Andrea attended Rochester Community & Technical College in Rochester, Minnesota, from 2009–2012, graduating with an Associate of Arts (A.A.).
“I became heavily involved with Student Life at RCTC,” she said, “and served as Student Senate secretary and then president. Those roles gave me the opportunity to really engage with the world around me. That experience allowed me to grow both personally and professionally—and for that I am most grateful.”
Andrea’s academic goals for after Inver Hills are in the planning phase. “My plans are nebulous at this point,” she said. “I’m still searching for the right program that would allow me to work on net-zero sustainable systems.”
Her vision for her future career has her working as part of a team focused on designing and implementing small-scale hybrid energy and carbon capture systems, micro-recycling systems (plastics), and sustainability consulting.
Explore Engineering project showcase
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.
Andrea’s project was dual-axis solar tracker designed to increase the amount of solar energy captured in an effort to maximize energy production of individual photovoltaic cells.
More about Andrea…
Originally from Rochester, Andrea graduated from Century High School in 2010. Before finding her calling as an engineer, she devoted her life to the arts, including the following pursuits:
- Traveling children’s dance instructor
- On-air radio personality
- Ballroom dance instructor with the Fred Astaire Dance Studio
- Artist’s assistant
- Volunteer reader to children at local elementary schools
Since taking on mechanical engineering as her new career path, Andrea has worked as a sustainability consultant and as an advocate for plastic recycling and reduction efforts statewide.
“Most recently, I co-founded a local nonprofit organization called Wilder Women,” she said, “which highlights women leading community-based projects that benefit our environment.”
“Andrea is co-president of Engineering Club at Inver Hills. In Engineering Club, students work on projects that reflect their interests in the field. Each new academic year, students propose new projects. Last year, Andrea proposed creating a renewable energy source, using solar and wind power, to benefit Inver Hills Community College.
“The project is as lofty as it sounds, and I am completely convinced that Andrea and the group of students she is leading will be successful. Andrea in a leadership role is a positive voice that helps guide other students in helpful ways. She continually looks at how to include other students. She does this in the most positive way—all while researching complicated topics and finding resources (on campus, locally and regionally).
“Andrea’s work is quite impressive. This year the group is working on a prototype of the power source.”
— Joan Carter, PE (MN, IA, CA), Engineering Faculty, Inver Hills Community College
Andrea White Inver Hills gallery
More about Andrea (cont.)
Andrea works while going to college as a server at The Lynhall, a market-inspired restaurant in Minneapolis, where she has consulted with management on sustainability best practices. She also works as a server at The Dakota, a jazz club on Nicollet Mall. She has taken on a new role as a physics and calculus tutor in the college’s Learning Center. Along with Elizabeth Brown, Andrea is co-president of the Inver Hills Engineering Club.
Andrea belongs to a large blended family: “I started with the traditional nuclear family: A dedicated and loving mother, Barb, who works as a traveling high-risk sonographer, a kind and engaging father, Neal, who works as a computer technician and small computer business owner.
“I have three sisters; Jessica, 30, the wisest of my siblings, who is president of the local nonprofit Family Child Care, Inc. and owner of a top-rated home childcare center, Erica, 21, my fearless younger sister, who is working through the premed program at Mankato State, and Alyssa, 19, my sweetest and youngest sister, who is studying to be an elementary school teacher at the University of Minnesota.”
Eight years ago, my family brought a few new people into the mix. Sara, my stepmother, is an overwhelmingly patient kindergarten teacher in Rochester, Quinn, 22, is studying archeology in Winona, Chloe, 19, is newly hired kindergarten teacher in Bend, Oregon, and Sophia, 17, who plans on going into the veterinarian sciences after high school.
When she’s not studying or working, Andrea enjoys music in all forms. She is a singer and plays a number of instruments, including piano, ukulele, guitar, cello, viola and more. She loves dancing, especially ballroom, reading, mostly nonfiction, and cooking. She also practices meditation and is a brown belt in taekwondo, a rank she earned when she was 11 years old.
She resides in St. Paul with her boyfriend, Wes, a U.S. Navy veteran who works as a specimen processor for LabCorp out of Allina in the Global Midtown Market.
Andrea White • Q & A
Why did you choose engineering as your academic and career path?
I spent my early 20s indulging, spending time and money on traveling, amazing cuisine, and the global music scene. I wanted to entertain and to be entertained. As my knowledge of humanity and our planet’s challenges grew, such indulgences grew to feel hollow, momentary, selfish even.
My quarter-life crisis hit strong at 24. I didn’t enjoy that life as much knowing I was contributing to the problem without at least trying to help. Once I decided I wanted to help, I had to figure out how I could make the most out of my time and intellect. I’d always been fascinated and bewildered by the inner workings of all things tech.
My father is a computer engineer. I spent years in his office toying with gadgets, not knowing the first thing about them. This was the foundation of my love of science. A moral imperative to do more emerged. Research showed the potentially exponential positive impacts I could have on this planet. All I needed to do was to learn how. So here I am—learning how.
What do you like best about your engineering field?
Knowing mechanical engineering is the foundation of all technological advances gifted to modern civilizations.
Three words that describe you as an engineering student:
CURIOUS. DRIVEN. IMAGINATIVE.
What advice would you give students thinking about going into engineering?
Off the top of my head: Decide what’s important to you then actively/mindfully adjust your life to reflect those values. Only then will you feel truly fulfilled. Adjust as you go until it feels right. Indulgences have their place but be careful they don’t act as your ruling faculty. Work to master your mind. Recognize the challenges ahead and decide right away that you will honor them.
What you are trying to achieve is a noble goal and the feeling of accomplishment you will get from succeeding through your struggles will be far more satisfying than anything you’ve ever experienced. Just. Keep. Trying.
What is the most challenging aspect of studying engineering?
Time management has always been a challenge for me. I try to enjoy a balanced life but maintaining a social life, mental health, family connections and volunteer work alongside my academic pursuits has proven to require more time and energy than I feel like I have.
The most challenging aspect of studying engineering has been cultivating a balanced routine that works to benefit most, if not all, of my goals.
Two words that describe your experience at Inver Hills:
Andrea White gallery
Andrea White • 12 Answers
- Favorite sport or physical activity: Dancing, cycling, rock climbing, hiking—anything outdoors and that gets my heart rate up.
- Place you would most like to visit: I would love to visit Antarctica to climb some glaciers while they’re still here; Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, to explore the largest salt flats in the world; and Norway to visit the land where my family is from—the list is endless, but these are absolutes.
- The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: I’ve held a beating pig heart in my hand. Bear with me here. A local educational institution had an opportunity, as part of a research study they were conducting, which allowed me and a few others to view an open-heart surgery on a 300-pound pig.
It was suggested that we reach in with our bare hands and take hold of its beating heart to experience just how much strength it possessed. After taking a few moments to ready myself, I reached in, held the heart with my hand, and upon their instruction, squeezed as hard as I could (fascinating though difficult to stomach). The sheer power beating back on my hand was as surreal a moment and I’ve ever experienced. I will never forget that day.
- First thing you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Hire a financial advisor 2) Set up education funds for local youth 3) Lobby for free secondary education, pay my fair share in taxes, buy some politicians and convince them to do the right thing for once (only partially kidding)—in short, I would just try to help however I could.
- Favorite go-to TV show: The Office or TED Talks
- Favorite movie of all time: Young Frankestein with Interstellar a distant second
- One thing you most want to accomplish in life: The greatest accomplishment in life would be to look back at the end of it all knowing I did the absolute best I could with the time I had to shape a cleaner, healthier, happier planet for the generations to come. I need to know my being here made a difference.
- Your national bird if you could have one: Robin: a symbol of passion, honor, renewal and new birth
- Dream occupation: Stated above + travel
- Person you would most like to meet: Marcus Aurelius: one of the founding fathers of Stoicism
- Skill you would most like to learn and master: Reverse engineering and recycling of existing technologies to create new, sustainable tech. Also, I’d like to be able to speak 10+ languages—working on Norwegian and the Scandinavian languages this year.
- Most important issue or problem facing humankind: This one is simple: We’ve forgotten we’re all in this together. We’ve forgotten that the ties that bind us are far greater than that which divides us.
Learn more about Engineering Fundamentals at Inver Hills by contacting:
Joan Carter, PE (MN, IA, CA)