Howard develops course inspired by a love of travel and global health

by Laura Babb, BA English 2019

Bioengineering instructor Cassandra Howard moved to Colorado in 2013 and began teaching full time at CU Denver in 2016. Howard was inspired to teach because she saw a way to impact students by teaching them valuable skills.

“To help them contribute to the world as tomorrow’s engineers, that is the ultimate win,” she says.

Howard’s newly developed course, CU in the City Bioengineering Design Hack for Health, has a global focus that develops sustainable solutions to improve and empower low-resource communities. “I have always loved traveling and exploring different cultures,” states Howard.

Her favorite memory at CU Denver is when her junior design class built field incubators that were utilized in rural Guatemala to assist in water quality testing. In the summer of 2018, she traveled with two students to Guatemala, a trip inspired by her love of travel and global health. Howard wanted her students to experience academic travel and to see engineering design make an impact in the real world.

The students built incubators facilitated by the use of 3M Petrifilm test strips to reveal the potential presence of E. coli or other coliforms in local water.

“The 3M Petrifilm test strips are a reasonably inexpensive method to test water quality,” explains Howard, reinforcing the goal to employ sustainable testing. Howard’s students also designed the incubators to be rugged, so they could be used in communities where power outages are common.

Howard encourages current CU Denver bioengineering students to find what interests them and then to search for opportunities in the field by interning or speaking with mentors. She wants to inspire her engineering students to be innovative and work collaboratively with other cultures.

“I hope students take away an appreciation for valuing different perspectives and creative approaches to problem solving,” she says.

photo: Bioengineering and public health students work with a rural community in Guatemala in summer 2018; credit to Gabby Reyes, public health, and Casey Howard, bioengineering