What was important to you about your college choice?
I wanted to study engineering, and I had heard about how great Calvin’s engineering program is. I also loved that Calvin is a liberal arts college, and that I would be taking courses in engineering and other subjects as well, like religion and history. I still love that—learning from all these places opens me up to new ideas. It’s changed how I live my life and my work as an engineer.
How has a class challenged your thinking?
I took Introduction to Philosophy the beginning of my sophomore year. Before that, I didn’t have a framework for how to think about ethical issues. That class built the frame for how I live. One unit was looking at the ethical implications of our agricultural systems, and I really grappled with the ethical issues there. I learned my everyday choices have an impact on the sustainability of God’s creation.
How do you work toward sustainability in your life?
I did a lot of research and discovered if we want a sustainable food system, we have to focus on plant-based eating. So I personally have been eating an animal-free diet for two years now. The Calvin community is supportive of this—there are student organizations, and professors offer advice and support.
What have you been working on?
In my senior engineering design class, my team and I are building an automated vertical farm. It can be stacked up in any environment, like an abandoned warehouse in an urban setting. Computers will automate the process of water, light and fertilization, making it a more sustainable way to grow food.
How does your project address the current agricultural system?
If we want to create a sustainable food system, we have focus more on plant-based eating. The way agriculture is set up right now, we won’t be able to sustain the amount of people we have on the planet in 30 years. That’s largely because of the way that land is used. One way to address the problem is to increase growing efficiency, which is the goal of our project. Our system can be used in urban or rural environments. It’s not a greenhouse, but we are planning to use artificial lighting to increase efficiency of plant growth in areas that might not necessarily have access to very much land.