Faculty Spotlight: Engineering professor takes hands-on learning to Peru
Monday, April 22, 2019
Written by: Seminole State Staff
Photo: Kirk Sawyer (right), and students who took the 2018 Spring Break service-learning trip to Luquina Chico, Peru.
For Kirk Sawyer, scholarship and service go hand in hand.
As the program manager of the Associate in Science (A.S.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Engineering Technology degree programs at Seminole State College of Florida, Sawyer plays a lead role in curriculum development, including the expansion of the project-based, service-learning methodology within the College’s Engineering Technology Department.
With a team of fellow faculty and staff, Sawyer traveled to Lake Titicaca, Peru, last summer to identify service-learning projects for Seminole State students to undertake over the next three years and deepen their understanding of complex engineering topics. Projects included a stove upgrade project and support for a government-sponsored sanitation program.
“Some of the information that we came back with has been infused into current classes.”
Before leaving Peru last summer, the team identified and completed an immediate engineering concern — fixing a dangerous electrical showerhead heating problem facing villagers in Luquina Chico, Peru.
Sawyer’s leadership and real-world work experience have supported Seminole State’s Engineering Technology Department since August 2013. He has more than 25 years of engineering practice, specializing in aerospace engineering, mechatronics, and hardware and software systems.
“The coolest thing I have ever done in my engineering career, was to work for a company that grew from $75,000 to $350 million over the course of 15 years,” says Sawyer. “No two days were ever the same.”
For the past 10 years, Sawyer has spent part of his time living on a farm, leveraging sustainable practices, alternative fuels and off-grid living. In addition, he uses his time off to investigate how municipalities outside Central Florida are incorporating renewable energy sources. Some of these concepts are pulled into his courses at Seminole State.
“What I enjoy most about teaching at Seminole State are the students,” says Sawyer. “I like getting to know them, finding out what they are currently doing, and what they plan on doing after they graduate. Some of our students have truly fascinating experiences to share.”
Seminole State College of Florida's School of Engineering, Design and Construction offers more than 50 degrees and certificates, including bachelor's degrees in construction, engineering technology, information systems technology and interior design. The programs prepare students for a wide variety of careers in the built environment and information technology.