Cody Oser - Internship Experience
Hello, my name is Cody Oser and I'm a super senior (5th year) in Civil Engineering, with minors in Business Administration and International Development Studies at CSU. I'll be graduating in December of 2015 and after school will be serving in the Peace Corps as a Water Resources and Environmental Engineer in Panama. In the summer of 2013, I had an opportunity to do an internship abroad in Nairobi, Kenya for a small startup company called SunCulture. This internship was a fantastic experience that inspired me to get involved as a leader in CSU's Engineers Without Borders, managing a potable water supply and distribution system project in El Salvador, which was one of the best experiences I had in college.
Living and working in Kenya, even for just a few months, was a fantastic experience. My daily commute involved overcrowded minibuses and motorcycle taxis, my lunch was always from street vendors, and my internship even gave me the opportunity to travel around East Africa and go on safari and other adventures!
SunCulture is an agriculture-focused social-enterprise company founded by two Americans in Nairobi, Kenya which operates throughout East Africa. It is focuses on introducing high-tech Western agricultural methods to poor, smallholder farmers in the region. Their core products are solar-powered automated irrigation/fertilization (fertigation) systems which dramatically improve the efficiency and output of these small farms, allowing the farmers a chance to escape poverty.
During my time with the company I had the opportunity to work on the design and prototyping of an upgraded system which incorporates weather and soil sensors to automate and optimize fertilizer use and irrigation. This is especially critical for these farmers because fertilizer is a major expense and the climate is dry, so water is a precious resource. This system incorporated the development of an SMS-based “app” for farmers to control the system using their cell phones, improving the system’s efficiency and freeing up more time for them. This work involved building a small prototype “farm” outside of the company’s office and writing a lot of code for Arduino and Raspberry Pi.
Additionally, I helped do a lot of work with GIS to develop a database for the company to have a better idea of the hydrologic resources in the country (Kenya doesn’t have extensive data networks like the USGS here). This internship was a fantastic experience and taught me a lot about entrepreneurship, product development, microfinance, coding, development work, etc. that I wouldn’t have learned in coursework and really helped me figure out what I want to do with my career.