Real-World Experiences Prepare Civil & Environmental Engineering Students for Careers, Help Communities Across World

Thursday, June 01, 2023
Two students in front of white board with map explaining project

Sean Childers, Logan McLaughlin and Jake Phillips informed Vigo County Commissioners later this spring about plans to convert a former railroad route into a six-mile mixed-use trail. (Photo courtesy of Terre Haute Tribune-Star)

Civil and environmental engineering seniors had real-world experiences this spring before panels of county commissioners, city council members and community leaders across the world that capped their next-level educational training to becoming future professional engineers.

Two teams showcased their plans for community trail systems while others provided improvements for a Girl Scouts camp and railroad museum, a historical farm along New York’s region of the Appalachian Trail, and development of a training institute in Nepal.

“We approached this as the next step in preparing us for our future careers,” said Julia McGuire, a member of a team that planned the Bluffton Greenway Trail Extension for city officials of Bluffton, Indiana. The project connects the northeast Indiana community’s River Greenway Trail and Interurban Trail and extends northwest along the Wabash River to the Old Bluffton Cemetery.

“Our project had to be sustainable and creative, with the overall goal of becoming a community asset that everyone could be proud of,” added team member Kenton Pardue.

Brendan Downey was the third team member – part of the Downey McGuire Pardue Inc. student enterprise for the 2022-23 school year. The trio visited the community last fall to assess technical aspects of the project, take measurements and get feedback from community leaders, then returned in mid-May for a formal presentation before Bluffton government officials.

The team’s design includes two observation platforms along the river and a pavilion, parking lot and kayak launch point. Upon completion, the Bluffton Greenway Trail Extension will serve as a vital link in the Indiana Visionary Trails project.

The project was one of three from the department to receive Red Ribbon honors after being reviewed by faculty, alumni and visiting STEM professionals at this year’s Rose Show, an event showcasing student projects from several academic departments.

In other civil and environmental engineering projects, students Sean Childers, Logan McLaughlin and Jake Phillips informed Vigo County Commissioners and other community representatives about their plans to convert a former railroad route into a six-mile mixed-use trail that ties Terre Haute to nearby Riley, Indiana. The team’s proposed design features a trail for pedestrians and cyclists. The design includes an eight-foot wide asphalt paved trail, natural screening for portions that pass near residential neighborhoods, an updated creek bridge crossing, safety signage, and room for parking at both ends. The design allows for the trail to be expanded for future usage by community residents and visitors.

Commissioner Mark Clinkenbeard told the Terre Haute Tribune-Star that “having Rose-Hulman students design this trail is a great project for them and saves us money partnering with them.”

Other capstone design projects completed this school year were:

Nepal Academic Campus Project: Adam Saliu, Zachary Jackson, Lance Shelton, and Chris Kossos

created plans for a training complex in Dhangadhi, Nepal, for community officials and professionals. Features include a roadside business and office spaces, academy and hostel buildings, and outdoor recreational facilities. The project site is attached to an international highway connecting to India. It is hoped that training sessions at the center will make Nepal a better country for its citizens.

Silver Cricket Farm (Wingdale, New York): Alexis Juarez, Daniel Houng and Lily Byrne designed aspects that could restore the farm’s historical barn and dam while respecting community historical preservation policies. There is also a two-acre pond and dam that needed to be repaired. (This was another Rose Show Red Ribbon award winner.)

Camp Sycamore Valley Improvements: Brianna Camero-Sulak, Caleb Urban, Andrew Calvert, and Benjamin Kaufer planned aspects of the Girls Scouts of Central Indiana’s 160-acre camp near Lafayette, Indiana. The project featured a new access road to the camp, management of storm runoff from a parking lot and surrounding roads, a replacement trail bridge, and the restoration of a stream bank.

Wabash Valley Railroad Museum Project: Emily Peterson, Charley Bernth and Rachel Becker created designs for a building for a guest shop, museum and restrooms – on land that included a railroad line spur and a small-gage train loop. Stormwater drainage issues also needed to be addressed. (Another Red Ribbon award winner.)