Civil Engineering Students Present Senior Projects in Collaboration with El Paso Water Utilities
The University of Texas at El Paso Chemistry and Computer Science Building was alive with excitement Friday morning as seven teams of civil engineering students prepared to present their senior projects to El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU).
EPWU had challenged the students to provide ideas for a Water Supply and Resource Recovery Campus (or Water Campus for short) in a 500-acre area surrounding the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, the Jonathan Roberts Water Treatment Plant, the Roberto Bustamante Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the proposed Advance Water Purification Facility. EPWU envisions the Water Campus as a place where people can gain an understanding and appreciation of the innovative water management approaches that shape El Paso's sustainable water supply strategy and participate in recreational opportunities.
"We are thankful to EPWU for this opportunity to provide ideas for a facility that will not only showcase their diverse water portfolio, but will educate people of all ages," said Ivonne Santiago, Ph.D., clinical professor of civil engineering. "Most people do not know that El Paso is at the forefront of water issues and planning for water shortages due to climate change. The students want to show our community, and communities around the world, that there is cutting edge and innovative water treatment technologies in El Paso and that this is the place to come to learn about sustainable water Resources Engineering management."
Students created their own fictitious companies and collaborated all semester with EPWU and mentor architects from the El Paso community to develop the area in a way that would bring together the individual water treatment plants with outdoor activities and a learning center that would be inviting to all members of the El Paso community as well as visitors from around the nation.
"This project exposed us to the outside world where it's not just about our books," said Anthony Rotich, member of the EG3 Construction team. "A lot of the projects I've done are just projects that I've been modifying, but for this project we had to design something from scratch. Completing and presenting our projects prepared us for the jobs we will be doing once we graduate."
For their learning center part of the water campus, the student teams proposed interactive museums to educate people about water treatment and desalination in inviting and easy to understand activities. Alongside hands-on education, the teams proposed connecting EPWU research laboratories to the learning center with a glass wall that would allow visitors to see EPWU researchers in action.
Proposed learning centers also included IMAX theaters, which would show informational videos of El Paso's water treatment process and be open to theatre performances and conferences. Paired with the indoor theaters, teams proposed outdoor amphitheaters to promote more large musical performances, similar to McKelligon Canyon's Cool Canyon Nights, to make the area into a place that is inviting to the public.
"This biggest challenge we faced in coming up with this project was originality," said Ivan Ramirez, member of the MICAD Engineering team. "Talking with each other in class, we knew each other's ideas, so we had to come up with new ideas to compete with each other."
MICAD Engineering's proposed Anasazi Water campus includes a food truck parking area to promote collaboration with and to help support local businesses.
The teams also proposed the renovation and addition of hiking and biking trails as well as the inclusion of botanical gardens in the Rio Bosque Wetlands Park to provide visitors a place to relax while learning about and experiencing local plant and animal life. Also incorporated into their designs were observation towers connected by zip line to let visitors experience the park from above.
The Water Campus competition is part of the two-semester Civil Engineering Senior Design Project. During the recently completed first semester, student teams received help from architect mentors to complete a master plan of the campus and preliminary design of the educational facilities.
In the upcoming second semester, EPWU will select the features from the student teams that best represent their vision for the Water Campus and develop a scope. With that scope in hand, the student teams will complete the design in the areas of structural, geotechnical, transportation, environmental, and construction management engineering.
"It feels great to actually be doing something for our community," said Diana Cabrera, member of the REE Border Company team. "We want to create more interaction between the people that we in El Paso have with EPWU and showcase that we have the best waste water and hydraulic systems, as well as attract visitors from outside of El Paso to share with them why El Paso is recognized for its water conservation efforts."