Al Bahr Towers – Gulf Facades

The Al Bahr Towers have a wonderful façade design for the climate here in Abu Dhabi. Designed by Aedas Architects and Arup Engineers worked together to design a folding active geometric patterned façade that actively moves throughout the day to block the sun from having a harsh direct impact on the building, but allowing a wonderful view out the windows when the sun is at an acceptable angle. I have had the opportunity to drive past these towers during different times of the day. Although unfortunately, I couldn’t get a good photo of it several times. I also learned that here in the Gulf region it is rather common for the architect to come up with a general façade concept and the sub contract out the actual technical design of the final façade. I don’t know how that worked for the Al Bahr Towers, but for many of the building surfaces here the facades can be quite complex.

Al Bahar Towers

Check out http://inhabitat.com/abu-dhabis-stunning-al-behar-towers-are-shaded-by-a-transforming-geometric-facade/ for more great info on the Al Bahr Towers.


Wicked

Wicked

Hi everyone!

Hope you’re all enjoying these few beautiful days. I always love it after a thunderstorm, all the humidity goes away. I’m currently writing this piece in the little patio between the library and STEPS building, absolutely amazing today.

As I’ve written in an earlier post, I’m involved with the Engineering Co-Op Program. The Co-Op program is a internship based program; students have the opportunity to work with a company in their junior fall semester and the summer between their junior and senior year. However, in order to graduate in time, students are required to take the fall classes they would miss during the summer between their sophomore and junior year.

WickedClasses are definitely difficult. This is made harder for me especially because many of my housemates and friends are on campus doing research, which means that they are done at 5pm. While I’m trying hard to study for my soil mechanics exam, they are busy distracting me with Mario Karts. Luckily, the Engineering Co-Op Program understand the troubles of a summer student and they offer many other activities and trips we can be involved with. In May, we were offered a trip to Hershey Park (which unfortunately I could not attend because of a lab session I needed to participate in). Last week, twenty-some of us traveled to New York City to watch the Broadway show, Wicked.

No spoilers here. Wicked is essentially a side story to the Wizard of Oz. In the Wizard of Oz, the main character, Dorothy Gale, is sent to the Land of Oz in a tornado. In her efforts to return home via the wizard, Dorothy is seen to be tormented by the Wicked Witch of the West. In Wicked, the twist is that the “Wicked” Witch of the West is actually a good and passionate woman who is misunderstood by society. The story in the Wizard of Oz is told from the perspective of society, who sees the witch as murderous, crafty, and wicked. In Wicked, the witch, Elphaba, was shown to born to a normal set of parents, however, the witch was born anything BUT normal. As a green child, Elphaba was shunned by peers, adults, and eventually society.

I won’t spoil it for you in case you’ve never actually seen the show (or read the plot). Absolutely amazing, I cannot wait for my next Broadway trip!

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2014-07-11 19.39.24


Using Plants to Do Our Dirty Work

Here at Cal Poly, my research lab is the greenhouse.

IMG_2409

I am part of a project that studies the mechanisms and effectiveness of phytoremediation.  If you’re an environmental engineer, you’ve definitely heard of environmental remediation, which is the term for cleaning up contaminants in the air, water, and soil.  There are several types of environmental remediation: bioremediation, natural attenuation, and phytoremediation.  The latter stands for using plants to remediate soil, air, and/or water contaminants.

Here’s a quick science lesson.  Keep reading, I promise it’s actually really cool!  A contaminant can be remediated by a plant in 5 general ways:

Phytoremediation-01

(Photo Credit: Institute for Green Energy & Clean Environment)

Phytostabilization–the plant reduces the bioavailability of the contaminant in the soil

Phytostimulation–the plant stimulates microbes in the surrounding soil that break down or alter the contaminant, making it less harmful

Phytoextraction–the plant absorbs the chemical through its roots or shoots and sequesters it

Phytodegradation–the plant absorbs the chemical and then oxidizes or reduces it to a less harmful form

Phytovolatilization–the plant absorbs the chemical, possibly alters it in its roots, shoots, or foliage, and then emits it into the air in gas form

My focus this summer is to figure out which contaminants the plants volatilize.  They are grown in soil containing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), dioxins, TPH (total petroleum hydrocarbons), PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and some heavy metals like mercury.  Therefore, we have to wear gloves when taking samples and touching the plants.  The concentrations are not high enough to hurt you unless you “eat the soil”, as my advisor Dr. Nelson put it.  I was sad to hear that no, we do not have to wear classic Breaking Bad Hazmat suits as part of our lab attire.

Here in San Luis Obispo, California, there are a lot of outdoorsy things to do.  If you walk off campus in any direction, you’re bound to encounter a mountain beckoning you to follow its steep and winding path to its peak.  My roommates and I somehow ended up at the top of Bishop’s Peak, overlooking our little city:

IMG_2549 IMG_2546


UAE Water

Water usage and water conservation are hot topics for a country built mostly in a desert. The tap water that is available throughout the country is mostly from desalinated salt water. The tap water can be used for irrigation, cleaning things, and swimming pools. However it is not clean enough for drinking. Everyone drinks from bottled water. Either smaller 0.5 – 1.5 L bottles or larger ~ 5 gallon jugs like you would see in some offices in the United States. I have also noticed that several restaurants that are nationally themed like French or Italian will import the water that they server you from that country. I suppose that might make it seem more authentic, but really I cant taste the difference between the water bottled in Al Ain, UAE or imported from elsewhere. With everyone needing an average of 2L of water per day, that adds up to a lot of plastic bottles over the course of my stay here.


FIFA World Cup – Congratulations Deutchland!

I watched the World Cup final from Stars and Bars on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi! Of course, since it is Ramadan there were no alcoholic drinks being served, but plenty of food and other refreshments since the game didn’t start till 11pm local time (well after sunset). It was a very good well played match on both sides. This was the first game I had watched in an American themed restaurant, so the game had already been on for several minutes before I realized that I could actually understand what the commentator was saying, because it was being broadcast in English! The few 8pm games that I had previously attempted watching were all broadcast in Arabic. Luckily, I do understand the basics of futbol, so that wasn’t necessary for me to understand what was going on. Although I think Argentina did well, I was glad to see Germany win especially since they had been playing well consistently through the entire tournament. 20140714_015219


Cal Poly, or Cali Paradise?

Hello avid blog readers!  I finally received the okay to blog about my experiences here in San Luis Obispo, California.  I’ve actually already been working here for a month!  What brings me to this wonderful town where I don’t have to check my weather app because it’s always 75 degrees? Where I can leave the apartment with wet hair because there’s no humidity to make it frizz?  Where I have to wear shades when I sit near a window because of the cloudless sky?  Well, I am part of the REU program at the California Polytechnical State University.  REU stands for Research Experiences for Undergraduates, and colleges across the country have funding for these summer programs through the National Science Foundation.  If you’re an undergraduate engineering or science major reading this, I highly recommend going to the website and applying for them, they’re a sweet deal.  I and nine other environmental, biosystems, chemical, mechanical, or civil engineering majors from across the country (Maine, Texas, Florida, California, and Oklahoma) are being put up on campus for the summer to do research under the Global Waste Research Institute.  Each student was picked by a professor to help her/him with her/his research in the sustainable reuse or remediation of toxic and/or organic waste.  Here’s a view of the upperclassman on campus housing…it’s almost as nice as Sayre Park Village.  IMG_2504


Summer Sessions

Hi everyone,

Hope everyone’s enjoying their Fourth of July weekend; my brother is home from Ohio and we had an excellent barbeque last night. The entire family’s going camping this next week, unfortunately I’ll be returning to Lehigh for classes.

I’m taking classes this summer because I’m part of the Engineering Co-op Program; in this program, students are required to take their junior fall semester classes the summer before their junior year, this way they are able to complete their first round of co-op rotation during the fall. Co-op students return to Lehigh for their junior spring semester, but they go back for their second and last round of rotation the summer before their senior year. The advantage of a co-op experience rather than a normal internship is that fact that you have at least 16 weeks of work experience during your first rotation (comparing to an average internship’s of 12 weeks). Since the company expects your return, you probably will have a better chance of your company rehiring you.

Summer classes are definitely not a joke. True, I’m only taking 14 credits instead of the normal 18 during the semesters, but the lack of time really makes the classes more difficult. There are only 12 weeks of summer classes (separated into two sessions of 6 weeks each) compared with a normal semester’s 15 weeks. The accelerated pace makes attending class even more important than during the semester. One three-hour lecture is probably worth an entire week’s worth of material. My second summer session’s schedule goes from 12pm – 5pm with a half hour break in break.

The advantage of these summer classes are definitely the smaller class sizes. My Soils Mechanics class is made up of 7 students, six of those in my class. It is clearly much easier to know your classmates since you will be seeing them every day. Probably just as important, it is much easier to get to know the professor with such a small class! As much as I’m complaining about the accelerated pace and long class time, the summer session does seem much easier comparing to the actual semester. This is probably because most clubs and organizations do not meet during the summer.

With that being said, there are definitely more than just studying in the summer. If willing, students are able to take hold of the few on-campus jobs. Some students have a lighter schedule than me, so many students are also involved with research with professors. During the actual semester, the heavy course load makes intensive research incredibly difficult. In the summer, it is definitely possible to get involved with research.

During the summer, co-op students are invited by Career Services to participate in various activities. A few weeks ago, many of us were offered to travel to Hershey Park (free of charge!). This Friday, Career Services is hosting 20 students to go to New York City to see the Broadway show, Wicked. I’ve posted previously about seeing Phantom of the Opera and Lion King with Lehigh, I’m incredibly excited to see Wicked.

The summer semesters are definitely busy with classes but there are still a lot going on around campus. I’ll be sure to write more soon!


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