Engaged in the community, engineering students win citizenship awards

On and off campus, engineering students are putting service before self

05 June 2019

(Edmonton) Five community-minded students have been presented with the inaugural William Muir Edwards Citizenship Award in recognition of their engagement with communities on and off campus.

The award, named after one of the founding professors at University of Alberta, is the highest honour the Faculty of Engineering bestows on its students. Muir Edwards distinguished himself by giving to the community, and the award, established by the David Morris Family Foundation, recognizes the same dedication in today's students.

Students were presented with the $10,000 award during a special ceremony June 4.

"We're here to celebrate five extraordinary young engineers," said Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes. "It's sometimes scary to watch the news but it's people like you who give me hope that we are passing the torch to some brilliant young hands that will make the world a better place."

Award recipient Kabir Nadkarni, who's working with the Paul Ban First Nation using drones to monitor air quality, said the award helps raise awareness of the role engineers play in society.

"There is a stereotypical image and this goes a long way to show the broader community what we care about and what we do," he said.

"And for other engineering students and future students, I hope it encourages them to continue doing work in the community and that simple solutions can go a long way."

Each of the recipients was also presented with hot-off-the-press copies of Born to Build, a history of engineering at the U of A, written by Ellen Schoeck.

Kabir added that the award helps build a stronger emotional connection to the faculty.

"It's important to have that connection and know the roots of the faculty, and today is a pretty good reminder of that."

The recipients of the award are:

Ariel Li
A mechanical engineering (co-op) student who embraces entrepreneurialism and creativity to create social and environmental change. Ariel served as the VP Marketing for the Enactus UAlberta chapter, part of an international organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurship. She now leads the Hempact business development team, one of the social enterprise projects Enactus oversees. She is also the Founder and President of the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience UAlberta committee.

Kabir Nadkarni
Now entering the final year of the engineering physics (co-op) program, Nadkarni is helping shed some light on the impact of Alberta's energy transition on local communities, listening to the concerns of underrepresented citizens and helping them develop tangible solutions to the challenges arising from evolving energy industries. He is leading a project to use drone-mounted sensors to generate air quality maps for the Paul First Nation, west of Edmonton. He has also co-ordinated workshops on the technical, health and policy aspects of air quality monitoring.

Callie Lissinna
Lissinna is a passionate advocate for increased diversity in STEM and the aerospace industry. She sees benefit in empowering young people in both the arts and sciences so they have the opportunity to contribute to society in a variety of ways. She conducted an internal review of the AlbertaSat team and discovered female recruits were being promoted to technical positions at a slower rate than males. Because of her findings, the team took intentional steps to achieve gender parity. Entering her final year of studies in the mechanical engineering (co-op) program, Lissinna mentors young women through participation in UA-Wise and the Faculty of Engineering's Female Mentorship program.

Alexander Wright
Wright engages with youth in numerous capacities, but his natural affinity to engineering often shines through. He has made significant contributions to the FIRST LEGO League Robotics Competition, a mentor-based program designed to build science, engineering and technology skills, where he has served as design judge, project judge and core value judge for multiple competitions. Now in his third year of mechanical engineering (co-op) studies, he is an integral member of the University of Alberta's RoboMaster team. A former Edmonton Public School Board Student Senator, Wright is a strong advocate for youth engagement and governance. He represented over 95,000 students to Edmonton Public School Board Trustees, creating opportunities for his peers to voice their ideas and concerns while also helping them learn about democratic governance and public education.

Elizabeth Gierl
Gierl is a fifth-year electrical engineering student committed to developing green energy technology and engaging youth in the challenges of climate change. She has contributed countless hours to giving youth a voice on sustainability issues. She is the co-founder and lead editor for the Green Medium, an award-winning, youth-run environmental blog to promote sustainability and environmentalism.