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Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Making a difference: Two chemical engineering students give back

Improving cook stoves for people in Haiti and teaching science experiments to local Girl Scouts and students are two ways that University of Illinois chemical engineering students are making a difference. 
Grant Blazina and Sarah Huang are two of this year's Illinois Club's Make a Difference scholarship recipients.
Grant Blazina and Sarah Huang are two of this year’s Illinois Club’s Make a Difference scholarship recipients.

This year, Grant Blazina and Sarah Huang received the 2013 Illinois Club’s “Make a Difference” scholarship which recognizes students who are making a difference on campus or in their communities. Nine students were honored with this scholarship.

Blazina, a junior in chemical engineering, who also is minoring in earth, society, and environment, is the lead coordinator for the Girl Scouts Program, part of the REACT Outreach Program on campus. More than 250 student volunteers from REACT visit third grade classrooms in elementary schools within 30 miles of campus.

Organizing visits to Camp Kiwanis, a local Girl Scout camp, is one of Blazina’s ways to bring science to youth locally. “At these events, we do all kinds of fun and interesting chemistry experiments and demonstrations to try to interest the next generation of girls in science and chemistry,” he said. “It’s hard not to get excited about liquid nitrogen ice cream.”

He also is helping to coordinate an Engineering Open House event at Lincoln Trail Elementary School in Mahomet which will host more than 300 visitors, 30 exhibits and 80 volunteers. Next year, he will continue to work with the REACT outreach program and will serve as the lead scheduler for the third grade program.

“The Illinois Club’s generosity is admirable, and I appreciate their financial help greatly,” Blazina said.

Sarah Huang, a junior studying chemical engineering, is president of an interdisciplinary project called Haiti Clean Stove. Partnering with researchers, designers, and experts, the group designs and implements improved cook stoves to replace charcoal and open fire cooking in Haiti.

To make a more sustainable cooking stove for Haitians, Huang said members traveled to Haiti and conducted usability testing to determine what would work best. “We believe this project will introduce to Haiti the concept of sustainability, and also provide pilot data for the clean cook stove community worldwide,” Huang said.

She says she is honored to receive the scholarship. “The great leader Gandhi once said “be the change you want to be,” and I have been always interest in sustainability,” Huang said. “Receiving this scholarship is a significant recognition for my accomplishment and encourages me to continue pursuing my career in the field of engineering.”

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