CU Denver takes the spotlight at ASCE Annual Convention

By: Philip Taylor, civil engineering student

Denver’s booming construction scene took center stage at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Annual Convention last weekend at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Denver. In addition, CU Denver students hosted ASCE leaders, networked with industry peers and attended dozens of educational sessions at the three-day event.

ASCE’s decision to hold its 2018 convention on CU Denver’s doorstep offered students unique access to the industry’s top leaders and innovators such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn. Student attendees also had the opportunity to take behind-the-scenes tours of some of Denver’s biggest construction projects, including the Platte to Park Hill stormwater systems project and CDOT’s Central-70 project to overhaul and widen Interstate 70 through north Denver.

CU Denver made its own mark on the convention by hosting ASCE’s newest president, Robin Kemper, P.E., on Wednesday, Oct. 10. As ASCE president, Kemper leads the nation’s oldest engineering society. ASCE represents roughly 150,000 civil engineers in 177 countries; publishes important civil engineering literature such as the ASCE 7 standard for design loads, among many others; and is a leading organizer of educational events like this weekend’s convention as well as monthly technical dinners in Denver.

Kemper last Wednesday had breakfast with CU Denver’s ASCE Student Chapter officers and faculty advisor, Dr. David Mays, as well as Dr. Caroline Clevenger. Kemper discussed the important role ASCE student chapters play in connecting students to working engineers. She also discussed her job as a senior risk engineering consultant at Zurich Services Corp., where she advises owners, designers and contractors on professional liability, builder’s risk, risk management and best management practices. While designers and contractors play different roles in civil projects, the success of one depends on the success of the other, Kemper said. Effective communication and best practices among designers and contractors are key to limiting risks at the construction site.

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ASCE President Robin Kemper (first row, second from left) joined CU Denver students and faculty for breakfast on Wednesday, Oct. 10.

Kemper later toured the CU Denver campus and gave an hour-long presentation to Dr. Heidi Brothers’ Construction Engineering Systems course. She urged students to take full advantage of the convention’s educational sessions, tours and networking opportunities.

“Meet as many different people as you can,” Kemper said. “And talk to us gray-hairs.”

Kemper encouraged students to stick with ASCE after they graduate and consider becoming politically active. ASCE faces challenges nationwide in retaining its young members. As an incentive to graduates, ASCE offers free memberships to civil engineers during their first year in the workforce and graduated membership fees in the years that follow, Kemper said. She highlighted ASCE’s professional connections, its social and community service events, and its political lobbying on infrastructure matters. ASCE members “speak as one voice,” to policy makers in Washington, D.C., and at statehouses across the nation, Kemper said. Bills such as the Water Resources Development Act, which last week passed the Senate and authorizes billions of dollars in investments in civil works projects, help drive construction of infrastructure that improves the safety and welfare of the public.

“We’ve got your back,” Kemper said of ASCE’s advocacy work. “Public policy helps drive the future of our infrastructure and how we help the public.”

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Kemper speaks to the Construction Engineering Systems course on Wednesday, Oct. 10.

ASCE also supports construction engineering professionals, Kemper said. For example, ASCE’s Construction Institute offers construction professionals the opportunity to share best practices with their peers and take part in technical activities and conferences as well as the development of standards. The Construction Institute – whose goal is to improve communication within the engineering and construction industry, improve construction practices and burnish the image of the construction industry — is one of nine ASCE institutes that provide resources to members in specialty areas.

“You’re going to need to continue your education throughout your lives,” Kemper told students. In addition to passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, Kemper recommended student consider pursuing Envision credentials. Envision, which is a certification and training program supported by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, promotes sustainable approaches to planning, designing, constructing and operating infrastructure projects.

Sustainability was a key driver of the Platte to Park Hill Stormwater Systems Project, which seeks to protect Denver residents from extreme flooding while improving water quality in the South Plate River watershed. The project was one of the construction site tours advertised at the ASCE convention. Platte to Park Hill is a $298 million project for the City and County of Denver that will recontour the City Park Golf Course to intercept storm water; create additional stormwater detention at Park Hill; build a mile-long open drainage channel through north Denver for flood relief and recreation; and install massive below-ground conduits to safely convey stormwater to the South Platte River in Globeville. The City Park Gold Course phase of the project was procured as a design-build contract and awarded to Saunders Construction. Work began in late 2017, and the course is on schedule to reopen in summer 2019. The broader Platte to Park Hill project faces many unique construction challenges associated with building in an urban environment, including land acquisition, environmental risks, traffic management and community outreach.

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A major storm sewer at the Platte to Park Hill project. Photo courtesy of Molly Trujillo.

The ASCE convention underscored the importance of continuing education in the civil engineering profession as well as the need for good communication among civil engineering designers, project managers and contractors. It reinforced the need for innovation to ensure civil engineers continue to protect the safety, health and welfare of the public.

Engineering students make a strong showing at the Research and Creative Activities Symposium

Last Friday, 30 engineering students participated in the university’s annual Research and Creative Activities Symposium—11 bioengineering, 5 computer science, 13 electrical engineering and 1 mechanical engineering—and students from the college won first through third place in the Engineering and Math Division, first place in the Biomedical Sciences Division, and an Emerging Scholars award.

Engineering and Math

First place: Electrical engineering PhD student, Zeinab Mohammadi won first place for her poster “Real time spike clustering for electrophysiology recording” (sponsored by Tim Lei and Chao Liu)

Second place: Bioengineering undergraduate students Jacqueline Chavez, Anne Lyons, Ean Peterson, Jonathan Platt, Ian Garvin, Michel Manzanares, Mikala Mueller and Sarah Lamb won second place for their poster “Craniotomy Training Devices with Reusable Thermoplastics to Help Train Emergency Room and Trauma Surgeons” (sponsored by Craig Lanning)

Third place: Electrical engineering undergraduate student Kyle McGrath won third place for his poster “Exploring Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) to Recognize Human Gestures in Edge Computing Environments” (sponsored by Dan Connors and a UROP)

Biomedical Sciences

First place: Bioengineering undergraduate Damon Pool won first place for his presentation entitled, “Optimization of a human induced pluripotent stem cell derived cardiomyocyte differentiation method to increase reliability and efficiency for downstream applications” (sponsored by Jeffrey Jacot)

Emerging Scholars Award

Computer science undergraduate students Chris Renden, Lewis Sammons and Jordan Stein won the Emerging Scholars award for their project “Shared rapid prototyping space using hand tracking and virtual reality” (sponsored by Min Choi)

Also, many thanks to the faculty, staff and graduate students who served as judges (my apologies if I missed anyone):

  • Bioengineering: Liliya Vugmeyster, Craig Lanning, Jennifer Wagner
  • Computer Science: Min Choi
  • Electrical Engineering: Md Habib Ullah, Stephen Gedney, Tim Lei
  • Mechanical Engineering: Maryam Darbeheshti

Congratulations!

Project un[Contained] places second, receives social impact award at THE CLIMB

IMG_1546On April 26, six collegiate start-up teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges at THE CLIMB Pitch Night, hosted by the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the CU Denver Business School. Among the six teams was Project un[Contained] and interdisciplinary senior design project advised by Peter Jenkins, professor of mechanical engineering.

Un[Contained] won second place ($2500) and the Social Impact Award ($1000) for their deployable, multi-purpose structure made from upcycled shipping containers and deliver them to developing countries suffering from natural disasters, refugee crises and more. Students on the team include Nic Chandler (MECH), Jason Bergfalk (Architecture), Austin Zerr (MECH), Nicholas Powers (Business), Gage Brumley (MECH), Brad Dyksterhouse (MECH), Riley Hamlin (MECH), Corey McLaughlin (MECH), Jon Farmer (Architecture) and Thomas Satkowski (Business).

Read the full story here.

Congratulations!

Team Odyssey takes second place at NASA rover competition

photos courtesy of www.facebook.com/UCDOdyssey/

A team of mechanical engineering senior design students—Team Odyssey—took second place last Friday in Huntsville, Alabama at the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. The team also brought home the featherweight award, which rewards teams that best meet the weight minimization challenge.

The team—Joshua Brill, Jeffrey Deutsch, Jessie Gibbons, Will Glass, Luke Makowski, Ryan McCort, Kayla McDermott, Kyle Osborne, Robert Sallee, Khyrsten Tatum, Tony Tieu, Alex Wamain, Nathan Webster and Tyler Wilson—competed against 70 other teams that were tasked with driving their rover through a course designed with obstacles similar to what one would find on surfaces in space. The team completed the half-mile course in 5:01 minutes. The team has been featured on CBS4 and on 9NEWS.

Per NASA’s website, the planned course for the competition requires two students, one female and one male, to traverse a terrain that includes a simulated field of asteroid debris — boulders from 5 to 15 inches across; an ancient stream bed with pebbles approximately 6 inches deep; and erosion ruts and crevasses of varying widths and depths. The challenge’s weight and time requirements encourage compactness, light weight, high performance and efficiency. As part of the competition — before their first time on the course—rover entries are tested to see that they would fit into a lander equipment bay, a maximum 5 feet by 5 feet by 5 feet in volume. Teams earn points by assembling the rover in the allotted time; designing a rover that is lightweight; successfully completing course obstacles; performing tasks throughout the mission; and meeting pre- and post-challenge requirements. Each team is permitted two excursions: The greater score of the two excursions will be used for the final team score.

Congratulations, Team Odyssey. We hope to see you at senior design on May 11.

WICS teaches coding to Highlands Ranch Middle School students

outreachpic2The CU Denver Women in Computer Science (WICS) student group has been busy teaching classes at Highlands Ranch Middle School this semester.

The computer science juniors and seniors taught middle school students about programming, highlighted how the ample uses of code in today’s world, and talked about how a career in coding could benefit their lives.

WICS president Tegan Straley says, “It was fantastic to see the enjoyment of problem-solving in action when the students began practicing the Scratch programming language. The classes were valuable for everyone involved, and WICS is looking forward to many more future outreach events!”

Rens and team featured in CU Today

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How does one become the engineer of record on dozens of Denver’s infrastructure rehabilitation projects?

For Civil Engineering Professor Kevin Rens, PhD, PE – and the many students he’s mentored in both the classroom and the field – it’s quite simple. It comes down to loving the minutiae of the craft – identifying each crack in the pavement, rating the structural integrity of every component, and planning in precise detail the path to a longer life for bridges, streets, sidewalks, curbs and just about anything else that makes up Denver’s road system.

Read the entire CU Today story here.

Fall 2017 Senior Design Recap and Slideshow

The fall senior design event was a smashing success with 29 teams, nearly 100 students and almost 20 judges participating. Below is the list of winners:

Read the recap from University Communications.

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Three students receive prestigious ARCS scholarships

Three College of Engineering and Applied Science students have been awarded 2017 ARCS scholarships: Aaron Buchanan, bioengineering; Scott Spurgeon, mechanical engineering; and Rachelle Walter, bioengineering. These scholarships are awarded by the Colorado Chapter of the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation, which has partnerships with all four University of Colorado campuses, Colorado State University and Colorado School of Mines.

ARCS began in 1958 with a group of women volunteers who understood the importance of scholarship funding in supporting science students who want to make a difference. In September 1958, ARCS Foundation’s goal was officially announced to “. . . raise money for scholarships and fellowships (now known as Scholar Awards) . . . for the support of both undergraduate and graduate students.” Today, ARCS Foundation has 1,300 members in 15 chapters across the United States and has supported more than 9,600 graduate students in a variety of science fields with awards totaling almost $100 million.

ARCS scholarship recipients go through a very competitive selection process, and are selected based on their excellent academic performance and research experience. Buchanan and Walter are first-year graduate students; Spurgeon is a second-year undergraduate student.

Congratulations to Aaron, Scott and Rachelle!

Team Epiphany wins Rookie, Best Design awards at NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge

Epiphany AwardsLast weekend, a team of mechanical engineering students traveled to Huntsville, Alabama with their senior design project to compete in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge. It’s the first time CU Denver participated in the event.

Team Epiphany—Carl Bergstrath, Kristen Bonifield, Skyler Bunce, Binh Dao, Lesley DiMarco, Derique Duran, Jason Fuqua, Jared Harper, Josh Leyendecker—designed and built a three-wheeled, two-person vehicle designed to navigate the harsh terrain found in space.

At the event, the team navigated their rover through an obstacle course. Epiphany competed against 99 teams (high school and college), and won the college-level Rookie Award and the Best Design Award.

Congratulations!!

Learn more about the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge.

Three engineering students receive UROP mini grants

This fall, the Office of Undergraduate Experiences offered a second 2016 round of Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) grants.  UROP is a competitive program designed to financially support undergraduate research, most broadly understood as including all creative and other scholarly activities.  The goal of UROP is to provide an opportunity to extend learning outside the traditional classroom, laboratory, or studio.

Three students from the college received one of these mini grants. Congratulations to Aimee Lam, bioengineering; Jackson Osborn, electrical engineering; and Adam Rauff, bioengineering.