Category Archives: Faculty

Lehigh Engineering Candidates’ Day!


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.


Professors really do care about their students

I guarantee that at some point in your college career, you’ll take en exam, feel terribly about it afterward, and when you get your exam back be upset with your grade. Well, this just happened to me when I took my structural analysis exam. After I took the exam, I knew I hadn’t done as well as I should have. I just got it back on Wednesday, and my grade was definitely not what I wanted it to be. Now, I didn’t “fail,” I just didn’t get an A (which basically is failing to me). I was really disappointed in myself, and I felt like I let both myself and my professor down. Yesterday, I redid all of the problems, and today, I met with my professor to see if I did the problems right this time. As it turns out, I did, and I made really silly mistakes on the exam…very frustrating. Well, at least I know that I can actually do the problems. My professor assured me that everything was okay, and I can still get the grade that I want. We talked for a bit, and he really took some of the weight off of my shoulders. While I’m still not happy about it, I can move on with confidence that, indeed, I will be okay. Thank you, Dr. Pakzad, for making me feel better and giving me my confidence back. You rock!

Penonome: Site Development

For the past few days I have been out in Penonome region to build awareness within the community about our presence. We are approaching the local municipalities and hospitals to discuss our goals with hopes of building connections and that they direct us to locations where basic access is a life threatening issue. Thus far response has been great! We have met with some very interesting people that have helped us understand the region and offered support and provided more connections in the remote regions.

To explore bridge sites we have been doing a lot of off road driving and maps here are not all that thorough, so we are learning that sometimes it is helpful to pick up hitch hikers that can guide us in the right direction. Actually, one of our leads for a bridge site actually came from a hitch hiker, who wanted a ride to the next town. Our site investigations also include talking to the nearby residents to realize the need for a bridge, and obtaining basic information such as population, clinic and school locations, and most importantly to determine in the community would be willing to play an active role in bridge construction. We have been running into sites with terrain that is positive for bridge construction, sites with existing bridges which are in a bad shape and sites where terrain is so harsh that building a bridge might not be feasible or would require a unique bridge design.

Below is an image from a possible bridge site. The existing crossing is made of a concrete pad which quickly get flooded during the monsoon season cutting access to a group of 5 villages consisting of 700 residents approximately:


Sometimes we see existing footbridges and stop to assess them. Some are in good condition and some looked sketchy due to rust, wearing out of cables, or missing deck planks. This is a great way to improve our design and learns from design flaws we have noted:






Need For Proper Infrastructure

Today was a great example of how crucial footbridges are in these remote regions. Here is why:

6:30 am: I woke up early in the morning and went down to the river to dip my legs in the clear knee high water and it looked like this:


Then it started raining. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a regular shower that went on for 3 hours. After our community meeting we walked back to the river bed to obtain additional survey points, around 11:30 am, to find a raging river that had risen almost to shoulder level. A few people who lived across the river crossed quickly as we could literally see the water level rising every minute. Even this was risky because if they tripped it would have been hard to regain balance in the fast flowing rapid. I was shocked to see such a quick change in the river, and it wasn’t even a monsoon downpour. Below is an image taken during the rain. As you can see there is a high runoff resulting in the brown colored water.


Breakfast on the Atlantic Ocean and Lunch on the Pacific Ocean


Hike to San Juan de Pequene Bridge Site

After spending the majority of the past day on traveling, auto maintenance, and bridge survey we were exhausted and went to sleep by sun down. Following day we woke up bright and early to the sound of chickens. After a healthy breakfast of fried plantains and eggs we headed out to meet Juan, who would guide us in the 2 hour hike to explore the discussed bridge site.

The hike turned out to be a little more cumbersome than I had imagined, given I was in sort of a less physically active state (considering I preferred to drive from from my apartment on Carlton St. to Fritz Lab during my MEng days). Turns out San Jan de Pequene is located on the other side of a hill so most of the trip comprised of steep uphill hiking. Plus the recent downpour didn’t help, making conditions muddy and slick. Every step I took required an extra effort since my rubber boots were getting sucked into the mud. Halfway through the hike and I was exhausted, while Juan showed no signs of slowing down. In order to keep my legs dry I decided not to wear my socks in the boots. Bad idea!!! The blisters that formed as a result were quiet painful. We finally stopped for a breather and I sat down to see the damage to my feet. First bad sign was when I drained my boots and the all water that dropped out was red. Juan saw this and made sure I would get socks at the village for the hike back.

However rough the hike might have been, it was a worthwhile experience. I got to visit an isolated native village and the view of the hillside during our hike in the early morning dusk were amazing. When we arrived at the bridge site we met up with a few local leaders to assess the need for this bridge. The river, even in the end of dry season was impassable so we had to use a canoe. The situation worsens significantly in the monsoon downpours, leaving a community without access to crucial medical care.

This hike made we wonder why these people choose to live in such isolated communities. The answer is simple…because its Home. Home is where they have lived for generations, feel comfortable, have family/friends nearby, and can make a living. An impassable river might cause burdens but won’t make them leave. And Home is also something I miss right now.

After somehow making the hike back to our boqueron river bridge site, first thing I did was lay down on the river bed. And I was offered an ice cold drink, let me just say I’ve never been so glad to have a grape soda before.

Soon after, I learnt that people from San Juan de Pequene will be regularly making this hike to help with Boqueron bridge construction! It made me realize how horrible it must be to do that 2 hour hike only to come to the Boqueron river and realize that it is flooded and impassable. Today was an eye opening day and I am glad to be in Panama and to be able to help these people the best way I know how.

Below are pictures from our hike:





Below are photos and videos from the bridge site:




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