Published: Sept. 18, 2020

Wesley Schumacher My name is Wesley Schumacher. I’m a senior at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Paul M. Rady Department of Mechanical Engineering. I am also a transfer Buff; I transferred to CU Boulder in fall 2019 from Community College of Aurora where I took calculus 1, 2 and 3, physics 1 and 2, chemistry 1 and 2, differential equations and more. I grew up as a third-culture kid, born in Pakistan, and living in Afghanistan but still an American citizen. My dad was an engineer who specializes in small scale hydropower. Growing up, I would go to his workshop often and spend time with the locals learning how turbines were made and had fun making knives and axes. Most of my inspiration to pursue engineering comes from his work in the remote villages of Afghanistan. 

I graduated from the most diverse high school in Colorado, Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado. I was the team captain of the swim team and was also on the basketball team. I had many opportunities to grow in leadership during those years, including my work in the Institute of Science and Technology program, competing in sports year round and as the head lifeguard at Cherry Creek Athletic Club. During summers between high school, I spent time on my dad’s farm in South Dakota, working on the land with livestock and repairing tractors and other machinery when things broke down. This also laid a foundation for my interest in engineering. 

Attending CU Boulder has been a phenomenal experience. The education, the classes, the energy; I love it all! This last summer I had an internship with Vivid Engineering Group. It was a fantastic and challenging experience, and I spent time working on the reconstruction of I-70 in Denver, performing materials testing services. 

My goals in engineering are to create self-sustainable technologies that would provide essential resources to those most vulnerable. One of my goals is to work in a refugee camp to create these resources for those who live there. Refugee camps are often overcongested and crowded. I worked in Athens, Greece with Afghan refugees in 2018. I was deeply affected with grief when I learned the news that Moriah, one of Greece’s largest refugee camps was just burned to the ground. 

Through my dad’s influence, I’ve learned how engineering can benefit people’s lives holistically. Oftentimes, when I think of engineering, I consider the societies that engineers can affect and positively influence. I think of people’s lives: school girls who have access to electricity so that they can study at night, women who can start a business such as handiwork, because they have access to electric sewing machines, families that can learn about the world through satellite television. I think it’s essential to recognize that our advancement in technology is not simply for our own benefit but largely for the people around us and society’s improvement.

Partly through my dad’s inspiration, I seek to work in isolated areas of the world that are in need of what Maslow described—the basic elements of what humans need to function: safety, warmth and shelter. Growing up with my dad and taking trips in Afghanistan required critical thinking, flexibility, technical skills and proficiency in cross-cultural communication. As a third-culture kid who grew up in Afghanistan, I plan on utilizing the strengths that were developed in that environment. I learned through my dad’s organization that engineering requires management skills, technical expertise and effective communication to properly function. As an aspiring engineering student, I am personally encouraged by the engineers that seek to interconnect the technical aspects of engineering with improving society.

For more information on what my dad did in Afghanistan visit this website and watch this video