Justin Hall ‘10 admits he’s not the best surfer. But for the last seven months, the Industrial and Systems Engineering major has teamed up with I&SE assistant professor Truc Ngo and Ocean Green, a Nicaragua-based manufacturer, to explore the eco-friendliness of an innovative surfboard Hall says he hopes to use someday to catch a perfect wave.
Encounters like these have helped students such as Hall and Katie Nobel ‘10 to experience eye-opening moments that will shape their lives forever.
Participating in USD’s fifth annual Creative Collaborations event — which showcases more than 150 undergraduate student-faculty projects through art, social and hard scientific research and internships — has broadened horizons for both. Hall has gained a bigger appreciation for sustainability through surfing. Nobel’s internship at a nonprofit organization only strengthens her desire to be an advocate for women’s issues.
Hall is passionate about what he’s learned: “Traditional surfboards use polyurethane, which is basically foam, for the core,” he explains. “They want to see if [these] boards are biodegradable. They sent us samples, we accelerated the composting environment and monitored them to detect biodegradability, weight change, material hardness and surface micro images.”
Company representatives thought so much of Hall’s project that they flew him to Nicaragua in March. “I stayed with a host family. I not only learned how they made surfboards, but I also learned about the history and culture.”
The research project heightens Hall’s desire to be more conscious about the environment.
“I’ve become very interested in this and I feel I want to go to grad school for sustainability or environmental engineering. I feel sustainability is key if people want to continue to live the very fortunate lives that we do. We can’t live the way we do now forever.”
Nobel’s perspective expanded while working at Vista Hill, a non-profit organization providing programs to rehabilitate mothers who have struggled with a combination of drug, alcohol and domestic abuse. And, of course, their children have also been impacted. She was introduced to the organization through a family member who works in child protection services.
“I got my feet wet very fast. It’s been an extremely interesting experience.” Her internship began in October and she continues to visit the center twice a week. “If you want to represent a group of people, you have to know who they are, find out where they came from and how they got in the situation they’re in.”
Nobel says Vista Hill is a godsend for the mothers. “They provide them with so many resources like counseling, they’ll pick them up to go to rehab and they teach them parenting skills.”
While realistic about the world around her, Nobel says she plans to use the experience she’s gained as an opportunity to enlighten others. “I think (some of us) live in a bubble. There are a lot of people who don’t realize how the real world is.”
FEATURE PHOTO BY Nick ABADILLA