Project: I-475 Reconstruction North Segment
Lawrence Technological University
College of Engineering
Students: Nathan Staple, Jessica Bettley, Blane Johnston, and Pedro Garcia Orellana
Faculty: Dr. Elin Jensen, Dr. Keith Kowalkowski, Ahmed Al-Bayati, Nishantha Bandara, Mena Bebawy, Dr. Yifei Ma, Dr. Edmund Yuen, and Roger Harrison
What value does a real-world project bring to students?
The project brought about the teamwork that is expected both on similar projects, but also within the Civil Engineering Field. Often, we think of projects as a liner motion of scheduling and meeting objectives, but more times than not, it is an extremely collaborative effort brought by different focuses and individuals.
How do you decide what projects to work on?
For both the team and myself, we look at projects that have the best opportunity to positively affect communities in Michigan. The main decision was to first determine what communities have the most amount of problems and to assess those problems into what solutions we as learning engineers can help to find solutions for. Our engineering mindset should be focused primarily on the needs of communities, and how our decisions play a major role for the day-to-day lives of our society.
How did this project prepare students for professional practice?
For our particular project, our team devised roles into specific focuses. These focuses included Construction, Transportation, Structural, Water Resources, and Environmental Engineering. Each team member focused on each discipline, studying and applying engineering designs individually, and then as a whole team on a collaborative state to see what solutions we can come up with as a whole project. Each team member had the opportunity to discuss with Professional Engineers about topics within each focus, and then apply as a group for further collaboration with Professional Engineers. Each of us gained many of the technical design skills within the focuses, and the software skills for designing our project schematics.
What advice do you have for other programs wanting to add similar collaborative projects to their curriculum?
My advice would be to allow students to be able to come up with solutions. Often, there can be pressure from other Professional Engineers and faculty to quickly come up with a solution for a project’s problem. However, if students are allowed to freely come up with solutions initially, without too much pressure from Professional Engineers and faculty, then we as students get the opportunity to learn about solution making and to apply our studies from our courses to a real-world solution.