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Events and Awards

2021 Engineering Leader Under 40: Aaron Esselman, 30

Senior Hydro Engineer Mechanical, Yuba Water Agency, Dobbins, CA, United States, BS Mechanical Engineering & Sustainable Manufacturing, California State University, Chico

By CFE Media September 8, 2021
Aaron Esselman, 30, Senior Hydro Engineer Mechanical, Yuba Water Agency, Dobbins, CA, United States, BS Mechanical Engineering & Sustainable Manufacturing, California State University, Chico

Aaron Esselman, 30
Senior Hydro Engineer Mechanical
Yuba Water Agency
Dobbins, CA, United States
BS Mechanical Engineering & Sustainable Manufacturing, California State University, Chico

Why should this person be recognized for this award?

A rising leader who never cuts corners, Aaron is focused, analytical and deeply committed to his colleagues and community. He is one of the brightest people you will ever meet and takes a detailed, systematic approach to finding solutions to engineering problems. Aaron works seamlessly with our maintenance, operations, and engineering departments and uses a range of instrumentation trends to diagnose equipment issues and determine potential causes. He is extremely data driven and ensures all data is accurate before releasing anything to service. We can always rely on to accurately diagnose issues and determine the best solution to correct it.

Achievements, Advancement & Career-related Industry Contributions

Aaron is a team player who is committed to building relationships and fostering collaboration both at Yuba Water Agency and within his local community. As a Yuba County native and former student at a local community college, Yuba College, Aaron has maintained ties with instructors and staff, and helped promote a partnership with the college’s machine shop to engage and inspire the next generation of engineers. This includes having students at the machine shop produce non-essential small parts, which promotes learning and connection to real-world projects in their community. Aaron is also a rising leader in the workplace. He takes pride in mentoring student interns and successfully advocated to continue Yuba Water Agency’s internship program last year, which was scheduled to be postponed due to COVID-19. This provided valuable on-the-job engineering training for several interns during an otherwise dark year for many college students.   During a recent unplanned outage, Aaron went above-and-beyond to contact engineers from across the country to learn about a specialized piece of equipment whose components are no longer manufactured. He also recently took on leading a project to modify a shut-off valve on one of the agency’s main penstocks, which hasn’t worked since 2008.

Non-work-related Activities & Hobbies

Aaron recently began to pursue mountaineering, which involves hiking, climbing, and overnight backpacking. Beyond the obvious symbolism of scaling mountains, Aaron says he enjoys a challenge and taking something on that pushes him to the limit both physically and mentally. For their honeymoon in June 2021, Aaron and his wife reached the summit of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United Sates and the Sierra Nevada. Backpacking through Glacier National Park is next on the bucket list for Aaron.

Interesting Details

  • Aaron is a Yuba County native who attended a local community college before transferring to California State University Chico to complete his degree in mechanical engineering with a minor in sustainable manufacturing.
  • During his first few semesters of college, Aaron failed Calculus, which caused him to do some serious soul-searching to assess whether engineering was the right path for him. Aaron would retake both Calculus I and II, earning “A’s” in each course. He would go on to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Chico State, and says he’s a stronger engineer for experiencing – and overcoming – failure early on.

Why did they choose this career?

When Aaron was 10 years old, he says he remembers helping his dad build a go-kart from an old brush mower and learning how engines work, which first sparked his interest in engineering and mechanics. This interest expanded into mechanics, welding, and metallurgy. In college, Aaron says engineering was the perfect combination of his strong math skills and his interest in building machines. Now a hydro mechanical engineer, Aaron works on all aspects of our hydroelectric power generation facilities and associated equipment and says he enjoys the diversity of his work and the value that engineering brings to his community.


CFE Media
Author Bio: Since its founding in 2010, CFE Media and Technology has provided engineers in manufacturing, commercial and industrial buildings, and manufacturing control systems with the knowledge they need to improve their operational efficiency. CFE delivers the right information at the right time around the world through a variety of platforms.