Annual Meeting “Cascades” into City of Lakes with Service Project

This year's Annual Meeting in Minneapolis boasts more than an eye-catching slate of talks on cutting-edge technologies and breakthroughs, more than a patient audience ready to learn, and more than great turnout from all professional sectors that touch chemical engineers. It has incorporated an outreach component designed to give back to the Meeting's host city and allow members to network with and meet new AIChE colleagues and friends. This year, AIChE's Environmental Division sponsored a service project to restore the natural habitat along the Mississippi National River and Recreational Corridor at Mill Ruins Park.

Ruins of flourmilling operations along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Photo courtesy of Drew McUsic.

The project also featured a brief presentation by Gayle Prest, director of the City of Minneapolis' Office of Sustainability. Approximately 15 volunteers participated in the event, including both local members from the Upper Midwest and members who came from much farther, such as Washington State or Texas. All AIChE members were invited, and prospective or current Environmental Division members were encouraged to attend to meet fellow Division members and learn about other opportunities available for Division participation. Gayle offered insight on the slew of sustainability initiatives and honors that characterize Minneapolis' commitment to green practices, such as its designation as the second most bike-friendly city in the nation or the role of hydropower sourced from the Mississippi River, capable of generating up to 12 MW of power for the city. The convention center itself has over 2,600 solar panels, ranking in at the largest solar installation in the Upper Midwest! The Meeting venue is engaged in plenty of other environmental and ecological efforts that reflect the City's dedication to sustainability.

Park Ranger Sarah Keefer demonstrates seed broadcasting to AIChE. Photo courtesy of Drew McUsic.

After Gayle's presentation, Rebecca Brown and Sarah Keefer, two interpretive rangers with the National Parks Service (NPS) chronicled the history of the tract of the river at Mill Ruins Park, from the origins and slow erosion of St. Anthony's Falls--which serves as the basis for the city of "Minnehaha," a Dakota word for "water falls"--to the ruins of the numerous flourmills located along the river that took advantage of the available water for milling. Today, visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the river--a National Park that comprises a network of other parks--or visit the Mill City Museum (highly recommended by both Rebecca and Sarah).

AIChE volunteers also planted two kinds of grasses along the river bank: sideoats grama and canada wild rye. Sarah taught the group that the original meaning behind the word "broadcast," which today we associate with media and the transmittal of news or information, has its origin in the broadcast, or spreading, of plant seeds! As we broadcast seed, we also removed residual litter and lopped off invasives plant species that remained from prior removal. The event was a great success and we all enjoyed taking advantage of the beautiful day! What kind of service project would you like to see at upcoming meetings? Are you from Houston or Pittsburgh, host cities of our 2012 Spring and Annual Meetings, respectively, and have great ideas to share? Offer your outreach recommendations or comments below for our upcoming meetings!


May's picture

What an awesome activity - thanks for the write-up!

Robert S's picture

Activities like this are such a great way to get to know the area and do some good at the same time. I wish I had been able to make this one, hopefully next time.

Alessandra's picture

Thanks Robert -- we really felt connected to the city through this project. You are right on that front! I hope you join us for the next one!

ehorahan's picture

This activity is great! I wish I had known about it before it was actually happening - it would have been a lot of fun!

Alessandra's picture

We wish you could have been there, Elizabeth! I'm glad you say this though; this is a lesson to me to figure out how to spread the word more widely for our next outreach event. At that time, I'll be sure to extend a personal invitation to you too!