Stevens EmPowers Energy Career for Erich Rau '10 '12
As a senior at Stevens Institute of Technology, Mechanical Engineering major Erich Rau ’10 ’12 gained hands-on experience translating the language of engineering to a real-world project. Erich participated in a broad collaboration with students from fields in engineering, design, and public policy, to create a solar-powered home design for American families and construct their cutting-edge dwelling on Stevens campus.
In the process, Erich did more than just build a house—he built the foundation for a career.
Now, while completing his Master’s degree at Stevens, Erich works for URS, an international engineering design services firm, as a mechanical engineer in their power division. With a focus on Energy and Power Systems, this is exactly where he wants to be. “Power is such a necessity and it is interesting to be involved in something so critical,” Erich says. “The scale at which energy projects operate makes it impressive to be part of this field.”
Erich arrived at Stevens with an open mind about his major, but his first introductory course in Mechanical Engineering ignited his interests. His favorite courses were Thermodynamics, which introduced overarching engineering concepts and the fundamentals of energy systems, and Modeling and Simulation, where students got to visualize and model their ideas. “The course was very difficult but also rewarding. It let me take everything I know and apply it to real problems.”
His ability to tackle real problems was put to the test during his senior year, when he signed up for the Solar Decathlon Competition as his Senior Design project. This high-profile biannual event, hosted by the Department of Energy, brings twenty invited collegiate teams and their student-made houses to Washington, D.C. for a week of exhibitions promoting sustainable engineering innovation. Stevens joint effort with The New School, called Empowerhouse, is a solar-powered, net-zero home that Habitat for Humanity will place in a D.C. neighborhood after the competition.
Beyond graduation, Erich continued to be involved with Empowerhouse, transitioning to a more advanced role while pursuing his Master’s. Raising a revolutionary house proved to be an ideal project, exposing Erich not only to energy issues, but also the broad skills required to execute engineering projects. “I learned a lot about everything,” Erich reports. “I learned about all the systems in the house, code compliance, implementing design plans, ordering parts and supplies, and anything related to project management.”
Besides building the house, Erich also volunteered with the Early Career Options in Engineering and Science (ECOES) summer program. Erich and the other ECOES instructors used the design and construction of the Empowerhouse as a launching point for hands-on experiments and a discussion of issues related to science and engineering. “The house let us introduce high school students to advanced concepts in a way they can understand. It really got them interested in green engineering.”
Overall, the Solar Decathlon experience provided not only personal satisfaction, but also a sense of pride in American engineering. “Solar Decathlon is a great forum for displaying innovative engineering talent in America,” Erich says.
At Stevens, innovation starts in the classroom. “The undergraduate education here is awesome,” Erich proclaims. “Everyone finds certain professors that really define what it means to be an engineer in their field. These people pull together all you are learning and demonstrate how you can relate so many different ideas with the same fundamental concepts.”
For the next generation of engineering students, Erich gives the age-old advice that, to achieve your goals, there is no substitute for working hard. “Your teachers can only meet you so far. You have to be willing to go the rest of the way in order to learn and succeed.”
With these unique experiences under his (tool) belt, Erich is looking forward to a successful career improving the ways Americans get their energy.