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Student's endless curiosity finds an outlet at ASU

September 08, 2010

In a car packed with five children, Susanna Young’s father patiently answered her many questions about the gaunt wind turbines lining the hills as they drove across the desert near Palm Springs, Calif.

It was the beginning of her fascination with the powerful energy stored in moving water, wind and the sun, an interest she has pursued at ASU. Young is a mechanical engineering undergraduate doing research she hopes will lead to better computer simulations of wind energy.

A childhood of curiosity and “endless questions” led her to spend hours perched on the roof of an ASU parking structure, analyzing an array of solar panels over an entire semester. She found that using a mechanical tracking system increased energy output.

She’s leading a team of engineering students to design a village for Malawi, Africa, using the retired but durable shipping containers lying idle in ports all over the world. As part of ASU’s Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program, her team is using engineering technology to create shelter, clean water and health care facilities.

“The idea is to create a village out of these containers where the Malawians, particularly disabled people and women, will receive quality health care and learn vocational skills such as making wind turbines out of local materials,” says Young.

“ASU provides some of the most amazing opportunities. By participating in clubs, study abroad trips, research and excellent curriculum, I have met so many people and formed lasting bonds and connections that I don’t think would be possible otherwise.”

Growing up in Ahwatukee, Young and her siblings were home-schooled by parents who encouraged them to strive for excellence. She chose ASU after doing some research and learning that the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering were ranked in the top 50 in the United States. She was also attracted by Barrett, the Honors College.

She took summer study abroad in France through Barrett, and she has been active in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative and in the student section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. She carries a 4.0 GPA and enjoys her classes so much that she has a hard time deciding which have been her favorites.

“I have absolutely loved all of my engineering classes, thermofluids and principles of mechanical design in particular. But my favorite class was my honors Human Event class. I love to read and discuss ideas and viewpoints with other people, and the class gave me the opportunity to do this in both a respectful and intelligent environment. I liked that Dr. Humphrey urged his students to think for themselves and form their own opinions.”

Young received the award as the most outstanding student in EPICS last year. She plans to graduate from ASU with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fluid dynamics, and then she may pursue her doctorate at Cornell, MIT or Purdue. She’s still fascinated with wind turbines.

“Susanna has an enthusiasm for making the world a better place, and the talent to back it up,” says Richard Filley, director of EPICS. “She’s an outstanding student, very refreshing. It’s exciting to watch her team work, to see these kinds of things happen.”

Read more about EPICS on the Entrepreneurs at ASU website.