Team SEVEN Engineering with Buzz and Associate Professor Kari Watkins after they won for the best project among civil and environmental engineering teams at the spring 2017 Capstone Design Expo. Kemeria Abdella and Sharani White, middle, designed a full site development plan for a proposed medical office building in Cobb County, Georgia, along with Cathy Wong and Ming Yang. (Photo: Jess Hunt-Ralston)
SEVEN Engineering’s site development plan for a proposed medical office building in Cobb County, Georgia, won the top prize among civil and environmental engineering teams at the spring 2017 Capstone Design Expo.
The team was one of seven to present their project at the campus-wide senior design showcase, the most ever from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. (Read more about the six other teams below.)
The project incorporated much of the preliminary work civil engineers do for clients on similar projects — utility plans, stormwater management, parking lot design and other infrastructure for the site.
“It was surprising; however, we put in a lot of work, and it feels good to be recognized,” said team member Kemeria Abdella. “Our project covered the wide range of topics in civil engineering. You can’t just bring a model or prototype, so you have to make the drawings come alive when you’re talking to people about your designs.”
In this case, sponsor Kimley-Horn and Associates has begun work for the project at the corner of Big Shanty Road and George Busbee Parkway, so the students —Abdella, Sharani White, Cathy Wong and Ming Yang — were able to offer the firm a different perspective.
“[This can be] a lessons-learned for them or maybe, how we can change things in the future if younger minds saw something and said, 'Oh why did you do it like this?'” White said.
In fact, a fairly recent Tech graduate now working at Kimley-Horn has been advising the team, helping them figure out their approach and teaching them about the site-development process, White said.
“He did Senior Design, and he did it with Kimley-Horn. He's literally been in our shoes; he knows what we know, and he knows what we think we know that we actually don't know.”
Yang said tackling the project help crystallize what she could do with her career.
“I didn't know there was such thing as land development until I saw this project,” she said.
Plus, they said, taking their project to the expo is an opportunity to showcase the intense work that goes into civil and environmental engineering.
“Some majors are a little more understood than others are. Or they’re little more visible,” White said. “[Sometimes people say,] ‘Y’all just build bridges or something.’ No, this plan — these 10 pages — took us hours and hours of work. This is going to be something that's real, something that you see in real life. I think it's very cool that we get to show people what it's like behind the scenes.”
Read more about the School’s other teams:
Project: Redesign the preliminary treatment unit for the W.B. Casey Water Reclamation Facility in Clayton County, Georgia.
Sponsor: Jacobs Engineering
Team Members: Brittany Brown, Maya Goldman, Alexandra Muscalus, Kayla Townsend
Project: A feasibility study for a “statement” bridge connecting the heart of Georgia Tech’s campus to the North Avenue Research Area and the Structural Engineering and Materials Lab.
Sponsor: Georgia Tech Capital Planning and Space Management
Team Members: Merq Belongilot, Brandon Byers, Jordan Hunt, Luke Reeve
Working with Jacobs Engineering, the team had to improve the first stage of cleaning up wastewater as it comes into the plant — essentially, the removal of grit and solids so the water could move onto biological treatment. In this case, Jacobs had already designed their solution and was in the process of constructing it as the team worked on ideas.
That proved to be interesting, Muscalus said.
“When we first gave them our design, they said, ‘No you can't do this. It's too out-there.’ But they passed it around for a day and got back to us and said, ‘Actually, we think this is possible. This is interesting; run with it.’ So whether or not that will influence some of their design and thought processes later on, who's to say? But it definitely showed them a [new] idea.”
Goldman said they learned many of the details of actually constructing a design since Jacobs was in that phase of the project, which was valuable. And Townsend said the project made her consider her career options a little more broadly.
“I had always assumed that, because I had my past three internships within wastewater, that I would continue in wastewater,” she said, noting she’ll start a job this summer with Georgia Pacific.
“I feel like I have a pretty well-rounded experience in wastewater [now], so I wanted to try something new. I stopped applying so much for wastewater engineering jobs, and I went for environmental engineering as a whole, and now I'll be doing more environmental compliance work.”
Three research areas adjacent to the Tech campus are more or less cut off from pedestrians and bicyclists who want to reach them from the main area of campus. The route to the North Avenue Research Area, Technology Enterprise Park, and the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Structural Engineering and Materials Lab puts people along one of the city’s most dangerous corridors for walking and biking.
Georgia Tech Capital Planning and Space Management asked the team to design a pedestrian bridge that also makes a statement about the Institute’s commitment to sustainability and fits into the bicycle master plan for campus. Byers and Reeve said they saw the project as a chance to give back.
“You get to the end of your five years and you think, did I leave anything? What's my legacy?” Reeve said. “You do want to leave a little something.”
The team suggested several design ideas, including a wooden bridge that would stand out and tie in with Atlanta’s “city in a forest” reputation.
“To integrate that, we're going to use a local species, southern pine, for the construction of this,” Byers said. “So much steel and concrete is concentrated in this area, and to break it up some, I think, would be aesthetically pleasing.”
Reeve said the Capstone Expo is a chance to gather momentum for Tech to eventually build the bridge — and to represent his soon-to-be profession.
“I'm proud to be a civil engineer. I want people to feel like, yeah, civil engineering, they do some cool stuff over there.”
DVAK Consulting Group
Project: A feasibility study to improve pedestrian access to Maddox Park in Atlanta’s Bankhead neighborhood.
Sponsors: City of Atlanta and Emerald Corridor Foundation
Team Members: Valerie Curtis, David Dempsey, Arkeem Frazier, Tenesha Kittrell
Project: Design several alternatives to connect the west side of the Atlanta Beltline with the Silver Comet Trail in Smyrna, Georgia, via the Proctor Creek Greenway.
Sponsor: PATH Foundation
Team Members: Stephen Montgomery, Laura O’Connell, Zoe Turner-Yovanovitch, David Woodson
Pedestrian access is a multi-pronged challenge for the decades-old park on the west side of the city. People enter from a MARTA train station across a busy road from the park and from a neighborhood behind the park. The park is also bordered by an active railroad track. So the City of Atlanta wanted to know how to make access to the park safer.
The team is suggesting a mid-block crosswalk across the street for MARTA riders, a pedestrian plaza entrance from the neighborhoods, and a crossing or underpass tunnel at the railroad tracks.
“The main goal was basically to implement something that people are already doing,” Frazier said, “because you don't want to create something that people aren't going to use.”
That meant the team has spent a ton of time at the park talking to nearby residents, watching how people enter the area, and even trying various routes themselves.
“We were very intrigued by the community involvement piece,” Curtis said. “Going out, being able to survey the citizens of the community, and just find out what it is that they were looking for — we were really excited about that piece.”
“You have to take yourself out of the element of, OK, I'm the engineer; this is what's best,” Kittrell said. “We actually want to put ourselves in their shoes and say, OK if this [crosswalk] was right here, would I use it? Would I go left or right [out of the MARTA station]?”
Working for the nonprofit PATH Foundation, the team has designed three ways to connect the end of the Proctor Creek Greenway in northwest Atlanta across the Chattahoochee River and Interstate 285 to the Silver Comet Trail that runs from Smyrna to Alabama.
“The open-endedness of this project was really appealing. We had so many options that we could do,” Woodson said. “We had guidance in the aspect of what the PATH Foundation is looking for, but then we also had [the flexibility to] take it as far as we wanted.”
That has turned into community surveys, conversation with local governments, cost estimates for the different options, and much of the detailed engineering work.
“We're hoping that we'll be exceeding the PATH Foundation's expectations,” O’Connell said. “Our goal is to give them a master plan that they can just hand to a sponsor and say, hey this is what we're building.”
O’Connell and Woodson said they hope the exposure of presenting at the Capstone Design Expo will generate momentum for the project, encouraging residents to advocate for the trail’s construction. They also said they’ve learned how complicated these kinds of projects can be.
“Civil engineering projects can be quite large scale, and they can have a lot of different steps that you have to take through public governance systems to get them approved,” O’Connell said. “We're really learning a lot about how you get funding for these projects, how you can get them approved, what different departments the proposals have to go through, and requirements you have to meet.”
Pontus Engineering Group
Project: Design a urine diversion and treatment system for the Georgia Tech Living Building.
Team Members: Diego Bravo Palafox, Hannah Greenwald, Valeria Hernandez, Anat Revai
Project: Design a system to catch, filter and reuse storm water on the Emory University softball field.
Sponsor: Emory University
Team Members: Grace Brosofsky, David Hernandez, Jackson Orr, Brian Stanfield
Team member Anat Revai created this project with the help of adviser John Koon because she was fascinated with plans for a “living” building on Tech’s campus.
Working with a company called BioHabitats, the group came up with a plan to install waterless urinals and urine-diverting toilets. And using a system that’s coming to market in a few years, they can extract all of the nitrogen and phosphorus from the urine and turn it into fertilizer for the Eco-Commons around the soon-to-be-constructed Living Building.
But there was a problem: the toilets the team would need to make their plan work simply don’t exist yet.
“There are urine-diverting toilets on the market, but most of them are dry toilets, which are kind of smelly,” Greenwald said. And with dry toilets, you can’t curve the pipes that carry waste away from them. Another kind of toilet uses a tiny amount of water and allows for 90-degree angles in the pipes, but a there’s no urine-diverting version of those “foam-flush” toilets on the market yet.
Still, using just waterless urinals, the team found they could fertilize the Living Building’s entire property and part of the Eco-Commons.
“[Urine] actually contains the majority of nutrients in the wastewater stream, even though it only accounts for 1 or 2 percent of the actual volume,” Greenwald said. “if you can divert the urine, you can treat it for the pharmaceuticals, you can extract the nutrients, and not only are you keeping it from polluting the environment, you're also using it.”
She said Capstone Expo is a chance to show the giant impact of this kind of system.
“We really want to share the idea of urine diversion and treatment with everyone, because we had never heard of it before this, and we now are huge believers and proponents.”
The students came up with a plan to divert 100,000 gallons of water from ending up unfiltered in nearby Peavine Creek — enough to irrigate the 3 acre area of campus eight times.
Their system of cisterns, along with a drain field under the softball field itself, captures the water, filters it, and pumps it back out for irrigation and reuse. Emory also will get credit toward their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design efforts.
“They've had a lot of water running down through [this area],” Orr said. “I went out there when we had that huge rain event [recently] and saw that it's just shoving water through constantly. It's picking up all that dirt and sedimentation, and just pouring it into Peavine Creek. It's ruining the creek, basically.”
A drainage plan for Emory’s Cooper Field has been part of the campus’ stormwater master plan for more than a decade. Stanfield said he hopes the team’s design will give Emory a strong starting point to building one.
“The consulting firm that came up with the master plan [in 2005] identified about eight high-priority projects, and this is one of them,” he said.
Orr said their system will make the field an even better playing surface for the softball team, too.
“When it gets a heavy rain, they can probably play on it later in the day without having to wait it out or call the game because it feels to wet,” he said.
“There's a lot of little workarounds in the whole thing” — like avoiding existing utilities and tearing out scoreboards to put in the system — “but I think we've come up with a really good design, and a very functional one,” Orr said.