The News: Engineering Solutions

Engineering prof and students build low-tech device to heat homes.

Publish Date: June 26, 2014

 Zyola Mix, Richard Anderson and Aaron Brown seen here with the solar
furnace. Photo: Jessica Taves


With his students’ help, support from a local nonprofit and 144 aluminum cans, Aaron Brown fabricated a solar device that will help reduce heating bills in Denver’s low-income Westwood neighborhood by an average of $30 per month.

The device is built with simple materials such as soda cans, plywood, paint, plastic and a fan. The technology isn’t revolutionary, but the price is right—just $35 to build.

Brown, a professor of mechanical engineering technology, is training the nonprofit Revision International to build the furnaces, which will create employment for local residents.

“There are people who live and die in terrible conditions that are easily remedied through simple engineering solutions,” says Brown, a proponent of humanitarian engineering.

With a project in the Galapagos, a trip to Costa Rica and a goal of seeing the solar-furnace technology expand to Syria, Brown is leaving a lasting impact around the globe, in the community and in MSU Denver’s classrooms.

“The service-learning aspect for students is such a good experience,” says Brown. “They take away with them the knowledge that this project will make a difference in the world.”