Lost Creek: Flow of Knowledge

Thursday, December 22, 2016
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Immersive Learning: Civil engineering students get knee-deep in hydraulic field studies along sections of Lost Creek that flows through campus. A recent mitigation project has made the waterway accessible for a variety of classroom projects.

Lost Creek meandered through the campus landscape long before students filled Rose-Hulman's classroom buildings, residence halls and athletic arenas. But thanks to a recent compensatory mitigation project, the waterway is taking on new life as an outdoor education lab.

Wetland losses associated with the Indiana 461 highway bypass resulted in federal and state entities restoring or creating new wetlands along Lost Creek on campus. This meant that trees and overgrown vegetation were cleared, bridges replaced, erosion control measures placed, creek banks widened and shored up, and accessibility improved.

"Lost Creek has taken on a vibrant new life and has grown as a great outdoor classroom," says Jennifer Mueller Price, associate professor of civil engineering and environmental engineering.

Students in her hydraulic engineering courses spent last fall examining water quality and habitat characteristics-measuring water flow and velocity and analyzing sediment concentrations at several locations along the one-mile stretch of the creek's campus route.

"Our students are learning that the creek is a dynamic ecosystem," says Mueller Price.

The same is true of students assessing stream quality through water samples, bacterial counts and simple water chemistry in biology professor Ella Ingram's ecology class. Added elements to these studies are the varieties of small bugs found along the creek and the fact that the creek receives storm water runoff from campus and nearby tributaries.

"We're so fortunate to have this gem of a resource in our backyard," Ingram says.

Lost Creek also served as a resource for student teams in another course that spent last fall experimenting with novel pumping mechanisms designed to provide water to villagers living "off the grid" on the banks of a small stream somewhere in the developing world. Hand and rope pump devices were created to bring water 12 feet above the creek to a makeshift filtering and distribution center.

The pumps were the final projects for an Appropriate Technologies for Developing Countries course taught by Andy Mech (mechanical engineering), Wayne Padgett (electrical and computer engineering) and Michelle Marincel Payne (civil engineering).