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Hara | Engineering Management

“Get to know at least one faculty member very, very well. Bounce ideas off them. They'll help you find the right opportunities and the hidden gems that are not well advertised.”

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Hara is setting himself up for success as a well-rounded engineer.

  • pursuing a degree program in engineering management which fuses technical and business expertise
  • gaining hands-on research experience in his field of interest: sustainability
  • working with multidisciplinary teams on community service projects
  • adding a global perspective through a visiting student program in Finland

And Hara is just getting started. Hara chose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering management because he likes the multidisciplinary aspect of the program. His industrial focus area is mechanical engineering with an emphasis on energy and sustainability, but through this degree program he also gains expertise in finance and business management.

“I like the technical aspects quite a bit but I also like to have a foot in business, too, so engineering management I felt was a nice mix of the two.” He adds, “Having a scientific background is always valuable.”

Hara believes that engineers need a well-rounded perspective. “I still have to take physics and everything that goes along with an engineering degree,” he explains. “But technical skills are becoming easier to come by. An engineer has to be a leader, and I believe engineering management with its multidisciplinary approach is training me well to be one.”

To further a multidisciplinary education, Hara joined the Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program. Through this program, Hara will gain experience in five areas over the course of his education: research, interdisciplinary curriculum, entrepreneurship, community service and a global perspective.

He got a significant jump on that goal gaining research, interdisciplinary curriculum and community service experience—all in his freshman year at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Hands-on research experience

Through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI), Hara had the opportunity to work on a high-profile project funded by the Department of Energy: Energize Phoenix.

“I’ve always been fascinated by energy conservation,” he says. “I found a professor, Dr. Reddy, working in my area of interest and I walked into his office and asked if I could help on the project.”

The Energize Phoenix project is a partnership among the city of Phoenix, Arizona State University and Arizona Public Service, with a $25 million grant to reduce home and commercial energy consumption and create jobs in a central area of Phoenix, Ariz. Hara was part of the analysis team tasked to verify whether reported energy savings as a result of retrofits done in nonresidential buildings were consistent with measured utility bills before and after the retrofits were implemented.

This involved commercial buildings, churches and community centers—hundreds of buildings in the 10-mile stretch along the light rail corridor. He explains that they took a three-stage approach for each building. First, getting a multi-year history of utility bill data, along with the date of the retrofit and subsequent energy usage for several months. For those where energy savings did not meet auditor predictions, they visited buildings to take a closer look and try to identify the cause of such discrepancies.

Level three took an even deeper look at the HVAC system, constructing a detailed building energy simulation model of the entire building and determining the effect of such variables as airflow, vent operation and light and chiller retrofits on whole building energy use. Hara notes that he was given a fair amount of autonomy.

“I had to attend group meetings and listen to my mentors, but for the most part Dr. Reddy would say, ‘here’s the data, see what you can do with it.’”

He also says that he had plenty of support when needed from both his mentor and the other faculty and graduate students working on the project. Reddy states that. “Hara showed exceptional maturity and drive in both identifying a real problem on his own as well as coming up with an analysis methodology to investigate the issue of energy creep in buildings. Hara performed way beyond my expectations, and this experience has changed my outlook towards the usefulness of the FURI program.”

Hara joined the Energize Phoenix project in its final year, but says he’ll pursue additional research opportunities in the future. “I’d like to find projects where I might be able to make a business out of the work,” he says. “This year was a great experience. I saw government policy in action and what happens in closed-door meetings.”

Community service, an interdisciplinary approach

Hara is already applying his engineering knowledge—and giving back to the community. As a member of the student organization Engineers Without Borders, he went to the Havasupai Reservation over spring break to help troubleshoot water problems. “Engineers Without Borders is a multidisciplinary group. We have students in pre-med, all fields of engineering, construction—its not limited to one major,” he says. He is also a member of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) student chapter.

Engineers Without Borders student team at Havasupai.
Engineers Without Borders student team and mentors at the Havasupai Reservation.

Next on the list: global experience.

Hara was accepted into the University of Tampere, Finland, as a visiting student. He explains that Finland’s high marks in secondary education and environmental policy attracted his attention.

ASU has no exchange agreement with a Finnish university, so he approached Finnish universities on his own, and was invited for one academic year. He explains it was a bit more work not going through the study abroad office, but feels the experience will be equally rewarding. “I’ll be taking classes, learning the language, the culture, and exploring European history—history has always been a side interest for me,” he says.

Finding opportunities

“There’s a lot of opportunity out there. Much of it’s not well publicized, sometimes not at all. At the end of the day, it’s a make-it-your-own-way thing,” he says.

He adds that it is important to find support. “Get to know at least one faculty member very, very well. Bounce ideas off them. They’ll help you find the right opportunities and the hidden gems that are not well advertised.”

When asked where students can find support, he replies, “Everyone is given an academic advisor and they will help you with your classes. Find the person who coordinates your major—for me, Dr. McCarville. He created the engineering management program and we keep in touch because he wants to see what is possible. Student involvement advisors can help you with a number of programs. Amy Sever is a great contact for me because she coordinates the FURI and Engineering Grand Challenges programs.

I can’t thank both Dr. McCarville and Amy Sever enough for all of the help they have given me in my freshman year.”

“I’ve always been fascinated by energy conservation. I found a professor, Dr. Reddy, working in my area of interest and I walked into his office and asked if I could help on the project.”