Jessica Pollitz is a civil engineer working for the Sonoma County Resource Conservation District. She also volunteers with Engineers Without Borders to help her community recover from recent wildfires. "Discovering You: Engineering Your World" is produced by NBC News Learn in partnership with Chevron, the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Science Foundation.
Discovering You – Engineering Your World – Jessica Pollitz
JESSICA POLLITZ (Civil Engineer):
I think the plan is to do construction this summer if they can. My name is Jessica Pollitz and I am a civil engineer. I was born and raised in Ukiah, California. I was always really interested and good at science and math and that's when I decided that engineering would be a great career field for me. I actually originally wanted to be an astronaut and went to school for aerospace engineering. Then when at I was at college, I really felt a calling to help other people with my engineering. I learned about the organization called Engineers Without Borders. It was a service organization that engineers could use their valuable skill sets to help others around the world that don't have access to basic human rights, such as clean drinking water and adequate sanitation. We are in the Wikiup Bridge Way neighborhood. This is a private neighborhood of 27 homes. Twenty-six of the 27 homes burned down in the 2017 California wildfires in the North Bay. We are doing several post-fire projects and we're helping out those who need assistance due to either losing their homes or having some type of an environmental issue that happened as a result of the fire. This neighborhood has a privately-owned road and all of their culverts burned out in the fire because their culverts were made of plastic.
MICHAEL CHENG: Most of our plans, the piping underneath the roadway is ok.
CHENG: But how do we control the erosion at the exit point?
POLLITZ: Engineers Without Borders is working with this neighborhood to design and properly size and construct new culverts, which convey all of the drainage through this entire hillside and watershed into Mark West Creek. I think this natural disaster really hit our community hard because it was in our backyard. We were on the national news and some of our Engineers Without Borders members lost their homes. Why do you think we would store water in a tank? We've done three rainwater catchment projects at different schools. it's really neat to get a chance to do these more community-facing projects, and also to get involved in the local schools because then the kids can see this rainwater in action. Teamwork is such a huge part of engineering. It's next to impossible to do something by yourself and really just so many more creative ideas come out of it. I love being plugged into my community. That's where I really start to thrive and seeing what all of the good environmental benefits we can bring to Sonoma County.
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