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Civil Engineering Seniors Overcome Challenges to Design Award-Winning International Project

May 3, 2016

ASCE Indiana Section Student Design Competition

Award-Winning Team: Capturing first place honors in this year’s American Society of Civil Engineers’ Indiana Section Student Design Competition was the team featuring senior civil engineering students (from left) Isaac Gehman, Anne Pierce, Sanders Park, and Paul Hintz.

It didn’t take Anne Pierce long to assess the lengthy list of challenges she and a trio of Rose-Hulman civil engineering seniors faced when designing a medical clinic, school buildings, and a church during a year-long project for the Hippo Valley Christian Mission in Zimbabwe.

“Working through such an open-ended design problem was very challenging, but also very rewarding,” she says. “I was told ‘design a two-story building that can seat 600 students.’ Everything from that point on was my interpretation. This was the first class project where I really started having to use my ‘engineering judgment.’ There was no right answer or friend I could go to who was working on the same problem.”

Classmate Isaac Gehman adds, “Not only were we separated by distance (over 8,300 miles), but time (over 17 hours), language, and culture. It is one thing to know about other cultures, but it’s an entirely different thing to have such a large impact on one. We’ve worked incredibly hard to familiarize ourselves with what the (Gutu region of Zimbabwe) people value and what they are accustomed to. Our design reflects their community, their country, and their way of life. We would be honored if local residents visited the site and couldn’t tell it was designed by American students.”

Overcoming the project’s complexities, along with design characteristics, earned the team top honors in this year’s American Society of Civil Engineers’ Indiana Section Student Design Competition. A panel of professional engineers judged projects completed this school year by civil engineering students from eight Indiana colleges and universities.

Gehman was the project liaison with mission leaders, while designing water supply, distribution, treatment, and wastewater management for the mission site. Pierce conducted the structural design of a two-story, secondary school. Teammate Sanders Park designed the medical clinic and church, while creating renderings of all building designs and compiling the 350-page project report. Paul Hintz was the project’s geotechnical engineer, working with Pierce and Park to design a seamless transition for foundations of all buildings associated with the project.

“We were able to identify each other's strengths and weaknesses so that we could all play a critical role in the team's success,” Park says.

Hintz adds, “As a team, we had a lot of verbal communications, while also using technology extensively to coordinate our efforts after school hours…A geotechnical design always relies heavily on site information concerning the soils, and we were unable to test the soil in our project location. We mitigated this issue by developing simplified soil tests for our client to conduct on our behalf, and by designing the structures and foundations with conservative estimates of the material properties of the site.”

Other projects completed this year had senior civil engineering students designing aspects of trails for Hancock County, Lafayette, and Rosedale, Indiana; planning for a new office building for the U.S. Forest Service in Bedford, Indiana; designing for an industrial development at a former Superfund site in Marshall, Illinois; designing model campgrounds for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources; and helping divert water to mitigate flooding along the Chicago River for the Albany Park Tunnel in Chicago. These projects were supervised by department head Kevin Sutterer and professors John Aidoo, Jeremy Chapman, Jim Hanson, Kyle Kershaw, Matt Lovell, Michelle Marincel Payne, Jennifer Mueller Price, and Michael Robinson.