Published: May 11, 2020
Nate Bennett in a jacket in front of a wide expanse of mountains and sky.

Graduating summa cum laude from the College of Engineering and Applied Science with a BS in Technology, Arts and Media, Nate Bennett has distinguished himself at CU Boulder as a mentor, teacher and leader. A member of the President’s Leadership Class, Bennett graduates with a grade point average of 3.98, and he is a recipient of the ATLAS Institute’s Outstanding Undergraduate Award. In addition to his campus activities, he’s also completed a rigorous training to become a member of Rocky Mountain Rescue Group.

Much of Bennett’s career at CU Boulder revolved around helping others. As a residence hall advisor for three years, he helped freshmen adjust to college life. He’s worked as a learning assistant in several ATLAS classes and assisted in the ATLAS BTU Lab, teaching students how to safely operate equipment and complete all kinds of class and personal projects.

After an extensive one-year training, he joined Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, which performs search and rescue for those lost or injured in the backcountry, responding to calls at all hours regardless of weather conditions.

“Seeing the way everyone on the team is so selfless—where people are willing to drop whatever they are busy with in an instant—has made me more generous with my own time,” Bennett said. “I’ve realized that what’s important is connecting and sharing your life with others.” Joining the group has shifted his focus from “completing every line on his ‘to-do’ list” to “deepening his relationships with other students, friends, rescuers, family members and colleagues.” 

Exceptional projects
After attending a training on psychological first aid and learning about the emotional toll rescuers experience from responding to crises, Bennett created an app for his mobile app production class to help emergency responders assess and monitor their stress levels. Called First-First Responder Health and now available for free on Apple and Google Play, Bennett designed the app based on numerous interviews with first responders. Released in September, the iOS version of the app has about almost 400 downloads and a 5/5 rating.

“Nate immersed himself in this emerging and fast-paced technology and his exploration showed a passion for learning,” wrote Aileen Pierce, senior instructor and associate director of the Technology, Arts and Media program. “With no prior experience in app development, he became a proficient developer and released First.”

Originally intended for those involved in search and rescue, Bennett has since refined the app to support hospital personnel, firefighters, police officers and others, making it especially applicable during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He’s also proud of his capstone project, Flow Room, which he and Elsa Roeber completed hours before the Roser ATLAS building closed. Inside a “meditation cave” that they created from paper and wire, users activate the space by placing their smartphones in a holder by the entrance. They then select a natural environment to emulate by moving one of several stones to the center of a circle, which triggers forest sounds, a mountain stream, a thunderstorm and others. Visitors may also watch a fractal visualization projected on the cave wall.

“Flow Room is technically advanced, thoughtful and a perfect example of the cross-disciplinary work we expect in our students,” said Matt Bethancourt, director of the TAM program.

Bennett grew up in Colorado Springs, where he attended high school on the Air Force base. In elementary school, he dreamed of becoming an actor and performed in musicals, and also dabbled in writing a novel. In high school, he became interested in graphic design and photography.

He arrived on campus planning to study neuroscience, but quickly realized he wanted to pursue a more creative field, and an advisor for the Presidents Leadership Class suggested he explore TAM.

“From there I was hooked,” he said.

In his spare time Bennett can be found outside rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking, trail running and hiking. He and his fiancee had planned to hike the 2,600 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada after graduation, but COVID-19 has put those plans on hold for now. Ultimately he aims to find a position in a design field that allows him to creatively exercise his technical skills on projects related to the outdoors, mindfulness, or connecting people in meaningful new ways. 

“It's important for me to work on things that can improve people’s lives,” Bennett says. “But most importantly, I know that working with a great team of passionate, creative and kind individuals is where I thrive most.

“The most important thing I learned from TAM was that I could be thrown into any situation—new technology, new strategies of designing things or a new work environment—and be able to adapt and use the foundational creative design techniques I learned in TAM.”

His advice for the incoming class of 2024?

“College is such a pivotal time in life, and you don’t know what you want to do. It's so important to take advantage of as much as you can. Don't be afraid to throw yourself into new situations and see where you fit.” 

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