Mines graduates not only lead in STEM fields, but often use their ideas and passions to help communities in need.
David Pesek, a 2007 CSM graduate, partnered with Mike Kmita to found the Invictus Initiative in 2008. Dedicated to helping communities around the world develop sustainable solutions, this nonprofit organization continues to challenge students to make meaningful connections around the world.
“Invictus means unconquerable, so it’s just an unconquerable initiative, to change the world one community at a time with sustainable development and walk with these people through their problems,” explained Kaleb Weston, president of the Mines chapter of Invictus.
While the idea began at Mines, there are also chapters at Pepperdine University, University of Denver, and Colorado State University.
“We actually have two trips this summer,” Weston explained. “Nicaragua is in June and Kenya is in July.”
In Nicaragua, the initiative will be completing drilling projects to improve access to groundwater as well as developing some aquaponics systems. The aquaponics systems contain farmed fish that supply nutrients to plants, which in turn purify the water. Such a system capitalizes upon the Invictus Initiative’s mission of providing both socially and environmentally sustainable solutions. The trip to Kenya will also involve aquaponics, but will also focus on education-related project.
“The way the college system in Kenya works is that once you are out of high school you take a test, and if you get a B+ or better, you can go to college,” stated Weston. Invictus discovered on a past trip that exam pass rates have typically been low because students do not have light to study once the sun goes down. Engineering students at DU were able to develop a solar-powered light device to help alleviate this issue.
“After they took ten prototypes to this community, nine people passed the test and were able to go to college and four of them got full funding.” Weston said.
The Kenya trip will include expanding the availability of these devices as well as exploring possible communities in need in Ethiopia and Somalia.
Invictus also has projects related to women’s health, business initiatives, teaching, and human rights. Members have worked extensively in Nepal and India.
During the school year, Invictus often serves meals at the Denver Rescue Mission and helps families with children at Joshua Station, a transformative housing project in Denver. The Mines chapter is currently working on a partnership with MWB (Mines Without Borders) to bring in additional speakers to meetings. As most of the executive board members are graduating in May, there will be several leadership positions open for new members next fall.
While the communities visited benefit from sustainable solutions, Invictus Initiative members also gain a broader understanding of culture and get to travel the world with the help of the organization’s resources.
“I’m a mechanical engineer, so the way I see it, being able to go into these communities and bridge that gap of cultural differences and from there work on any problem that you are faced with is my favorite part,” Weston said.