Alumnus Manages Brown Expansion

He’s completed plenty of tough assignments for the engineering division, but this is the toughest. Thankfully, he’s the one getting paid this time.

Mines is spending $33 million on the 78,000-square-foot Brown Hall addition currently under construction, and mechanical engineer Scott Hodgson ’03 is the person responsible for overseeing about $10 million worth of the work.

It’s not his first project at Mines, but it is the biggest. Hodgson laughs at the irony that he’s practicing what he learned in Brown Hall on Brown Hall: “It’s a complicated job. That building gave me headaches during school and it continues to now. Demolishing the old lecture hall on the west side felt pretty good though. I think everyone who ever had a class or took a test in there had nightmares later.”

He works for Shaffer Baucom Engineering and Consulting, based in Lakewood, Colo., which won the contract for designing all the electrical, heating/cooling and plumbing systems for the addition. The most expensive single item is a 2,000-ton water-cooled chiller plant that will be able to serve eight surrounding buildings along with the addition. Surprisingly, the economies achieved by installing the two 325-kilowatt chillers may help win the building a higher LEED rating, says Hodgson. With numerous energy-saving elements incorporated into the addition’s design, the design team was originally aiming for silver certification, but they could now achieve LEED Gold.

Hodgson has found a job he loves in a place he loves, but like most, the path hasn’t been straight. Growing up in Indiana, he knew from an early age that he wanted to be an engineer: by 8th grade he was changing oil, replacing brake pads, and installing water pumps on his parents’ cars. But by 12th grade, he still didn’t know where he wanted to go to college.

That question was answered about five minutes after arriving on the Mines campus for an interview with the athletics department. “It was everything I was looking for in a college,” Hodgson says, referring to size, the surrounding area, the small town, Mines’ reputation, and a track team with a scholarship on offer. The pole-vaulter, who rose to 7th in his state when he cleared 14-foot-6- inches during his senior year of high school, stayed on the track team for three of the four years he attended Mines.

After graduation, his first job was with the aerospace and defense contractor ATK, where he worked as a quality engineer on reusable solid rocket motors for NASA space shuttles. But while space shuttle engines sound exciting, he didn’t like being a quality engineer. “I wanted to get into a more design-intensive area,” says Hodgson, who was able to transfer to the company’s facilities management group that was responsible for the 500-building ATK campus.

The constant variety and challenges of his new job suited Hodgson well. Outside of work, he earned his MBA and passed the PE exam the first time around, which made him a licensed professional engineer.

But Hodgson didn’t feel at home in Utah; his sights were set on moving back to Colorado. An opportunity came when he attended his five-year reunion at Mines in 2008 and met up with classmate Steve Maxson ’03. Employed by Shaffer Baucom, Maxson offered to show Hodgson’s resume to his boss, and a few months later, he was happily U-Hauling his life back across the Rockies.

Hodgson now shares the house he bought in Golden with his Jack Russell terrier, Wrigley. When he’s not pulling long hours to keep up with the Brown Hall addition, visiting his girlfriend in Texas, or volunteering at Mines track meets, he’s quick to load skis, hiking boots or a mountain bike into his car and head up I-70 to enjoy the mountains he’s come to love.

“I feel like a very lucky guy: to be able to live in what feels like the perfect spot for me, to have a great job, to be able to enjoy all that Golden and Colorado have to offer, and to be able to give back to the school that has given me so much,” he says.