Category Archives: Civil Engineering

Steel bridge & statics

Two weeks ago, Lehigh University participated in ASCE’s Mid-Atlantic Region Student Conference hosted by Drexel University. One of the competitions Lehigh participated in was the Steel Bridge Competition. Since it was my first time going to the event, I was really excited to see what the competition was all about. (Throughout this semester, I helped in the construction of the bridge by cutting some of the angle-pieces, etc. and I was really excited to see where all my work was being used!) The build-team, which consisted of 5 students from Lehigh, ended up building the bridge in under 45 minutes, from which I understand is a big improvement from last year’s time.

Although the bridge passed the lateral test, it did not pass the vertical loading test. Our bridge deformed to an extent where the arches appeared to buckle under the weight added to it.

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Before the bridge deformed

As I watched the bridge deform under the load, all that came to mind was Mech003, which I took instead of CEE3: Engineering Statics, and the stuff we learned about bridges, distributed loads, stress concentrations, plastic deformations, bending, etc. It was really cool seeing what I had learned in a class setting I was seeing in real life and how the concepts and equations applied to real structures. As finals begin next week for all Lehigh students, the deformation of our bridge will definitely help me remember some of the equations used in Mech3 as I now have visual aids to help me remember!

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Our bridge deformed.

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Lehigh Engineering Candidates’ Day!

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This past Saturday, I signed up to volunteer at Lehigh University’s annual Candidates’ Day which is hosted by the Engineering Department. Candidates’ Day is the day when students who have been accepted into Lehigh (and more specifically into the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science) come with their parents to learn more about the opportunities Lehigh has to offer.As a student who has been here at Lehigh for three years and who has recently changed her major, I was more than excited to share my experiences thus far here at Lehigh! As part of my duty as a volunteer, I had to show up at 10am on Saturday (which is early for me as I like to sleep in on the IMG_4640weekends!) to hear Associate Dean Tonkay give a speech about the importance of our roles as volunteers as well as further instructions prior to our walking to Packard 101 (the big lecture hall in Packard). At around 10:30, we headed down to PA 101 where all parents and incoming students sat and listened to the opening session. After this, the parents and students were dismissed into groups (based on the student’s engineering-field interest) and then taken on a department tour. This is where we, the volunteers, came in. I, along with other CE and Environmental Engineering students, took my group to Fritz Lab which is where most CEE classes are held.

When we got there, some of the professors who were already present gave a small speech to the group about the CEE department as well as some background information about themselves. After this, the group then got divided into 2 smaller groups to tour the building. One of the groups was led to a lecture hall to hear one of the professors speak, and the other group was taken to a lab room to experience, first-hand, the Hydraulics lab CEE students have to take.In that room, Professor Lennon was waiting for us with a Hydraulics Lab ready. He asked for volunteers and three of the high school students who were touring quickly raised their hands.

In these images, the high school students can be seen getting first-hand experience with one of Lehigh’s hydraulics lab. It was fun watching them do this as it allowed me to see what I will be dealing with in the near future!

Apart from the touring done, the Engineering Department here at Lehigh also set up a parent panel for the parents as well as a student panel for the high school students. And right outside the hall where the panels were being held, Lehigh’s Marching Band, Marching ’97, were playing songs.

And did I forget to mention that it was snowing this Saturday?? On a morning in April (which is supposed to be Spring already!), we got snow!!

Rain Snow or Shine, it was a very exciting day for Candidates’ Day. I can’t wait to volunteer again next year!

 

 


When a Solution is more than just about Technology

This semester, I enrolled in EWB’s social class; at first I was not entirely sure what this would entail but after a couple of meetings in attendance and having met the faculty advisor, Dr. Orrs, I am slowly gaining a better understanding.As engineers, we are constantly coming up with new technological advances and implementing them to problems we face in our daily lives. As an engineer in EWB, we go one step further and aim towards ensuring that every human being has their basic needs met by use of these innovative and technological solutions. At last Monday’s club meeting, EWB invited Dr. Arup SenGupta to come talk to us about his past and current projects in various foreign countries. Although much of the work he spoke about revolves around making purified water available for the people of those countries, the solutions he uses to carrying out his project goes beyond being a water-relief system. For one specific project, he showed us how women were the forefront of the project. As he mentioned, aside from being a water solution, his project also became a source of opportunity for women empowerment and entrepreneurship. Furthermore, Dr. SenGupta  spoke about how sometimes the technology behind the solution was not what was important, but rather the solution itself. If the solution was a simple yet efficient one, it would be worth more than one with an intricate design that ends up failing in the long run. Dr. SenGupta’s talk was very motivational as he pushed towards making us see that a solution was more than just about technology.

When I met with Dr. Orrs, the faculty advisor and professor for the Social Class, I was not sure what to expect, but as soon as he began asking questions – such as whether or not a project was truly necessary or whether or not the social and political aspects of the country had been taken into consideration and would have an effect on our project- I began to think back to Dr. SenGupta’s presentation and piece things together. The questions Dr. Orrs asked tied back to Monday’s presentation as he began talking to the class about projects other EWB student chapters had carried out and seen fail. With various water project left abandoned after either neglect for maintenance or simply due to it being inefficient, he made me realize that Dr. SenGupta’s message on solution vs. technology was correct. As a future Civil Engineer wanting to go back to my hometown and fix the water-drought issue, these kinds of questions have to be acknowledged prior to carrying out a solution. My involvement in the social class is helping me see that technology should not simply be about how intricate a design can be but rather whether or not it will be a good and efficient one. As an engineer, I have not had these types of questions asked in my classes (at least not yet) but I am excited to continue to meet with Dr. Orrs, the professor leading the Social Class and learn how to connect both the social aspect and the engineering aspect to a solution, whether its as part of EWB or in my post-undergrad career. I truly feel that as engineers in general, it is important to ask these questions as well as we work towards bettering our world.

 


The Switch to Civil Engineering

Hello everyone! As someone who is new to the field of Civil Engineering, I am very excited to share about my recent experiences and what prompted me to make the sudden switch! For starters, I am making the change from Bioengineering to Civil Engineering for which many have told me is not a common thing. Before coming to Lehigh, I knew I wanted to major in Bioengineering partly because it was a relatively new field compared to other engineering fields but also because it combined two things I found interesting: Biology and engineering. It’s been a fun ride learning about a lot of new projects professors are carrying out at Lehigh within Bioengineering but going back home to Los Angeles, my hometown, definitely gave me a change of heart.

The state of California is currently in a drought; from reducing the use of water and implementing new regulations for water usage, California has been working hard to help ease the effects the drought has had in the state. This past winter however, much of Southern California was expected to receive massive amounts of rainfall as a result of El Niño. As exciting as it was to hear that Los Angeles would be getting some rainfall, it was also frightening to see the after-effects it would have in the city as some parts are prone to mudslides and flooding. While watching the news one day during the storm, a footage of an interstate freeway that was completely flooded and vehicles and school buses trying to make their way towards the freeway caught my eye. As a high school student who had to commute a close-to-20-mile radius to get to and from school, the school bus was a daily method of transportation for me. It was scary to see the bus in that situation and it filled me with wonder why a lot of the rainfall SoCal was receiving was not being conserved and led to reservoirs properly but was rather spilling onto streets and interstate freeways and causing mudslides and flooding and people to be stranded in the floods.

Storm Flooding         IMG_5118

Although this was disturbing to watch, one thing that proved to be positive was the LA River. I used to joke around about the LA River being more of an LA Stream just because of the lack of water the river had flowing through it, but this winter, the water reached almost a third of the wall’s height.

LA River Before-After

There were other things I witnessed firsthand this summer that prompted me to want to help Los Angeles better their water systems and structures (ie dams and reservoirs) and they all led me to make the change to Civil Engineering. As a Civil Engineer, I would be able to help design and maintain the structures that the city was using to help better conserve the water and produce clean drinking water for the citizens. Thus, once I returned to Lehigh, I joined Engineers Without Borders after learning that one of their ongoing projects was to build a water distribution system in Cebadilla, Nicaragua. I had witnessed firsthand the effects the lack of proper and efficient water resources can have on a community, and by being a part of the organization’s project, I figured it would be a great way to start to learn how to give back to a community via engineering methods. I am really excited about this change and I am excited to learn and gain all the skills necessary to help countries and cities such as Cebadilla and Los Angeles obtain better water systems. I’m definitely anxious to find out what’s in store for me here at Lehigh!


Construction Site Inspector

Hi all!

 

Over the last semester, I have been away from Lehigh on a co-op with Remington & Vernick Engineers. My rotation ended a few weeks ago and I cannot even begin to write how much I have learned from this experience. I have grown in technical aspects but I also gained valuable insight in areas I never considered prior to this co-op. For my next few blog posts, I will be talking about projects I have worked on. Hopefully, for all the prospective civil engineering majors out there, you can have an inside look on what a civil engineering company actually does from an intern’s perspective.

One of the best parts of my experience was that my company gave me opportunities to explore many areas of the industry. You see, as a civil engineer, there are many smaller positions and concentrations I can focus on. A little over a month in my co-op, my department head asked me to help the inspections department for a week.

Inspecting job on a bridge crossing the Delaware River

Inspecting job on a bridge crossing the Delaware River

Construction inspectors are vital in any engineering project. Inspectors are the bridge between the engineers, those who design the project, and the construction contractors, those who actually construct the project. The construction contractors are given plans from the design engineers, which the contractors will construct. The inspector must ensure that the contractors are conducting the construction in accordance with the plans created by the engineers. The job is actually more difficult than it sounds because plans created by the engineers are not always constructible. Sometimes the terrain and geography of the location makes a design, perfect on paper, impossible to construct. The inspector must direct the contractors when the project must differ from the designs.

My brief experience as a construction inspector was particularly difficult for me because for the first time, I am supposed to be watching and supervising contractors who are much more experienced than I am. To describe my nervousness, I repeated thought to myself was that I am supposed to be telling people, who knew my job better than myself, what to do. Like many problems I faced in my co-op rotation, there was no clear textbook answer on how to deal with this situation. In addition, I cannot pull the “I-am-an-intern” card because I need to have the contractors respect my role as the inspector (if they realized that I’m actually just a student intern, they probably would ignore anything I tell them)!

At the end, I resorted to being incredibly respectful to the contractors while keeping a close eye on the specifications and drawing plans I was given. It was definitely an experience outside of my comfort zone, but I learned a lot!

Had to make sure that concrete was at the right level.

Had to make sure that concrete was at the right level.


Horizons End

I have greatly enjoyed my time here in Abu Dhabi. There are definitely many new buildings and opportunities arising out of this desert, changing and creating new horizons. It is amazing how much the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have grown in just a few decades of time. From small desert outposts to growing international communities. There are people working and living in Abu Dhabi from every known corner of the world. It has been wonderful to spend time learning from and talking to people from other places and other cultures. As much as I have enjoyed seeing and learning about the architecture and structures in the UAE, it is the people I met here that I will miss the most.

Kalifa Port End

Although figuratively for me since, it is also nearing the end of my trip here to the UAE. This is the end of Abu Dhabi Island. Literally, these rocks prevent the sand from eroding away at the end of the Khalifa Port. They also provide a beautiful view for sitting down and looking out at the Arabian Gulf.

As it is with most journeys then end of one, is also the beginning of another. There will be more horizons waiting back in the USA.


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.


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