FIRST® Alum Matt Kallerud is extremely familiar with this year’s FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. and FIRST® LEGO® League themes – as a civil/environmental engineer, he designs water and wastewater treatment plants.
Matt was inspired to pursue a career in engineering after participating on his high school’s FIRST® Robotics Competition Team (Team 1714 MORE Robotics from Milwaukee, Wisconsin,USA). After high school, Matt went on to graduate from the Milwaukee School of Engineering and the University of California Davis. Now, Matt is a civil/environmental engineer at Carollo Engineers, where he designs water and wastewater treatment plants.
This season’s FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. and FIRST® LEGO® League Challenges focused on problems within the human water cycle, or the way people find, transport, use, or dispose of water. As a water treatment professional, what are some of the main problems in the human water cycle you see every day?
Where I live in California, we just had a 5-year long drought where all the lakes, rivers, streams, and reservoirs were slowly drying up. If it doesn’t rain enough, we won’t have enough water, so everyone has to help save water. In addition to people using too much water, flushing things down the drain that don’t belong creates a huge problem for wastewater treatment plants and jeopardizes our ability to keep us safe and water bodies clean.
What led you to choose a career in water and wastewater treatment?
During my senior year of college, I was inspired by a renewable energy class to pursue environmental engineering, so I decided to pursue my graduate degree in environmental engineering. Making sure we have clean water to drink and protecting our water supplies from pollution is one of the most rewarding, fulfilling and challenging careers I could have hoped for!
If you had to pick a topic or a problem in the human water cycle to learn more about, what would it be?
A really interesting area of wastewater treatment is energy and resource recovery. They can process the solids to create gas to burn in an engine and create electricity! They can also extract nutrients from wastewater and make useful things like fertilizer for crops.
What’s something everyone can do to help preserve and protect our water supply?
Don’t treat your toilet like a trash can! When you flush wipes, medicines, or anything else that doesn’t belong in the toilet, it makes it a lot harder to protect our water supply. Once those things are introduced to the water cycle, they are very difficult to remove!
What are some technologies or innovations that you think will change the way we find or use water in the future?
Water reuse is the future; every year, more water is being recycled. The better the technologies become to clean water more efficiently, the more of it we’re going to be able to reuse. This will help communities that don’t have lakes or rivers and get their water from the ground. If they pump too much water out of the ground, the ground can literally sink! It’s happened in lots of places all around the world.
You’ve had mentors, or mentored others, through FIRST; what advice do you have to share with others?
Question everything: the first answer you get isn’t always the right answer and is rarely ever the best answer. If something doesn’t make sense to you, question it until you understand it.
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