CE Club December 2017 Update

Water Resources Engineering with LCA Environmental

Mark Boyd of LCA Environmental, and the current ASCE Dallas Branch President, spoke to the CE Club students at Woodrow Wilson High School about water resources and environmental engineering. The discussion started off with a run through the water cycle, including evaporation, condensation, precipitation, groundwater, surface water, and surface run off. Mark then had the students consider surface run off specifically. They were asked to list off what could be contained in surface run off and how do engineers need to handle and treat that water.

Mark then had a great group activity for the students to perform an improptu water quality risk assessment. The classroom was split up into teams, and each team had to evaluate the purity of ten different water samples with varying levels of contamination. Some samples had obvious bits of dirt, particles, and oil floating in them, while others appeared to be perfectly clear and “clean”. The students were tasked with ranking the ten samples in order of their own concept of “cleanliness”. Afterwards, Mark would reveal to the students the true ranking of the samples based on mandated requirements for drinking water.

Additional photos from Mark’s presentation can be found online here.


Municipal Solid Waste with Parkhill, Smith, & Cooper

Frank Pugsley of Parkhill, Smith, & Cooper is the ASCE Dallas Branch Past-President and came to talk to the WWHS CE Club for the second straight year. He first talked about his time in college where he earned a masters degree in environmental engineering through a five year program at Texas Tech University. Frank then told the students how he initially began his career in water treatment before transitioning into solid waste. Then, two years ago, Frank moved over to PSC and works with a team of 22 people on solid waste management.

So, what is municipal solid waste? Frank asked students to define this and to think about how their household trash gets from the curb that they drag it out to every week to the landfill. Frank compared the students’ definition of MSW to the state-adopted definition. He also showed the students what makes up municipal solid and how paper makes up the largest percentage followed by food, yard trimmings, plastics, and metals. The students also found it interesting that 60% of MSW is biodegradable. Next, the students were shown a diagram of the waste management cycle to illustrate the processes that civil engineers like Frank must consider, engineer, and develop systems and process for.

As a practical and specific example, Frank described the design and construction of landfills. He passed around a sample piece of a landfill liner and described all the different layers of a landfill, including the piping system to collect the students’ favorite word of the day: leachate. Frank also showed students how landfills can be progressive and “green” by taking initiative to do things like burning off landfill-produced methane in turbines to produce electricity. 

Finally, Frank challenged the students with an activity where they were given data relating to the landfill capacity in Houston area along with data about how much MSW was produced as a result of the cleanup and rebuilding of Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Students had to crunch the number themselves and decide on whether Houston has enough existing capacity to handle this sudden influx of MSW.


Structural Field Engineering with HILTI

Alexis Clark, a structural field engineer with HILTI, shared her career with the WWHS CE Club. Alexis brought a unique perspective to the students in that while she has a degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas, she has the opportunity at HILTI to use her people skills more than a typical engineer and learn unique skills while working out in the field.

Alexis gave a brief overview of the history of HILTI and then took the students through a day in the life of a HILTI field engineer. She showed the students her bright red company car that also doubles as her office – again not something the typical engineer gets to have or experience! She then shared with the students how she consults design professionals on anchor design and selection, helps engineers and contractors with anchor specification and installation, and does a lot of on the spot problem solving that requires the analytical mindset she developed in college.

For a group activity, Alexis put together a hypothetical situation for the students where they had to choose between three different anchors types for a post installed connection situation. Alexis gave the students pros, cons, and pricing info about each anchor type and each team had to decide which anchor would be the best option for their situation. At the end of the class, each group had to stand up and give a brief presentation, justifying their anchor selection.