Grace Burleson likes the idea of using technology to empower people worldwide. And it’s an idea she’s put to work while earning a degree in mechanical engineering at Oregon State.
As part of her Honors College thesis, Burleson traveled to Uganda last summer, where she talked to families, restaurant workers, government agencies and nonprofits about how they treat their water. She developed a sustainable business plan for the construction, distribution and maintenance of BioSand filters, a system for providing clean drinking water used throughout the developing world.
“I want to help people realize their own ideas and vision and help them find technology solutions that work for them,” she says.
Burleson is part of the emerging field of humanitarian engineering, which emphasizes science and engineering-based solutions to meet basic human needs and improve quality of life. Oregon State has launched an undergraduate minor in humanitarian engineering, along with a master’s degree in partnership with the Peace Corps.
Burleson will start a graduate program in mechanical engineering at Oregon State this fall with the goal to eventually work in international development. But first, she’s returning to Uganda to work with local nonprofit Terrewode on a different project: helping women launch small businesses that make soap from goat’s milk.