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When Lower Saucon Township needed help figuring out how to create a park that would meet many needs without breaking its budget, it turned to Lafayette’s civil engineering students.

Guided by Steven Kurtz, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, 14 seniors have been working in groups on designs for the 48-acre park this semester. The Lower Saucon Township Council approved their plans this month following a student presentation that earned rave reviews and a follow-up presentation by Kurtz.

“I was so impressed with the ultimate concepts each group presented and the professionalism of the presentations and the plans,” said Debra Ross, director of community development for Lower Saucon. “The circulation and hierarchy of pedestrian and vehicular movements were well thought-out. The cross sections and renderings were very effective in conveying a visual image of the improved site. The building structure design layouts appear to be practical and cost-effective. There was also a good grasp of the needs and concerns of the Council and communityWe are all excited about the next phase.”

“Everything works so well in this plan,” said Councilman Joseph Colosi according to the Express-Times newspaper, which praised the students’ involvement in an editorial. “I am very pleased with it.”

The plan calls for three multipurpose fields, a barn-like recreation center with an observation deck in the form of a silo, and over two miles of trails. It also addresses issues such as storm water and sewer control, traffic, and leveling the land.

Working in teams of four or five, the students are undertaking the project as part of the civil engineering senior design course. About 15 outside consultants have been available to provide assistance, many of them Lafayette alumni who are professional engineers.

Using feedback from the Township Council, the students’ proposals were fused into a single plan that Kurtz presented over spring break. The students are now undertaking engineering work that they will present to the township engineering firm hired to carry out their vision.

“This project is not only beneficial for the residents of Lower Saucon, but a great experience for the Lafayette students both personally and professionally,” says Ross, who adds that she is “thrilled to have the students working with us.”

Along with the township’s appreciation, however, the project has brought significant obstacles.

“The biggest challenge has been trying to please everyone, including the citizens of
Lower Saucon Township, the representatives of the various sports clubs that will be using the park, the Council members, and the environmental groups, while still doing what we think is best or most desirable with our background,” says Erin North of Canonsburg, Pa. “We also have a very tight budget, which is very difficult to contend with.”

Through the course, students learn how to bring together all facets of civil engineering — transportation, hydrology, environmental, structural and geotechnical — in one specific project, says classmate Daniel McClendon of Lakewood, N.J.

“We each work in a certain area and gather all of the information for that area,” he explains. “Once we do that, we look at the engineering aspects and use what we have learned the past three years on the project. This class gives us a ‘real world’ perspective of what to expect as engineers.”

Last year’s senior design class helped the borough of Alpha, N.J., decide what to do with its aging John Dolak Memorial Pool (see related story). Two years ago, civil engineering seniors presented the Forks Township Board of Supervisors with proposals for a new municipal building, which included a study of potential environmental and traffic impacts.

After graduation, North will work as a transportation engineer for Rummel, Klepper, and Kahl Engineers in Baltimore, Md. An independent study on urban transportation planning helped prepare her for the Lower Saucon project and the full-time job that awaits, she says. North has studied abroad in Brussels, Belgium, and conducted EXCEL Scholars research with Kristen Sanford Bernhardt, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, on the use of PDA’s for on-site slope maintenance assessment.

McClendon will enter the U.S. Army Communications and Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, N.J. On campus, he has served as co-president of CHANCE (Creating Harmony and Necessary Cultural Equality) and been a disk jockey for WJRH, the campus radio station. He also has participated in Lafayette Activities Forum, Association of Black Collegians, Brothers of Lafayette, Student Advisory Committee on Multicultural Recruitment, American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Concrete Canoe Team, which finished one point short of first place in last year’s regional competition.

Concrete Canoe is one of two non-credit projects pursued by Lafayette civil engineering students. Another group is creating a steel bridge model that will be entered in the annual National Steel Bridge Competition sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction (see related story).

Categorized in: Academic News