Article by Jonathan Shimko
The ACE Mentoring Program met on January 21, 2015 at the Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania for a session on Water Resource Engineering, hosted by the Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI). ACE stands for Architecture, Construction and Engineering and is a nationwide program that mentors and inspires high school students to pursue careers in design and construction. Each year the students perform a design project and this year’s project is to design a museum. Approximately 50 high school students from the Pittsburgh Area attended this session and worked to improve the design of their museum projects. Students learned about stormwater issues in the urban setting and ways that engineers are working to improve water quality and reduce peak discharges into our waterways.
The students were taught basic stormwater management vocabulary and principles throughout the session and were given opportunities to experience and use these principles through hands on and visual aids. An EnviroScape® model was used to demonstrate how precipitation reacts to different surfaces and the potential negative impacts of urban development on natural systems. The students were able to see how utilization of simple Best Management Practices (BMPs) can effectively reduce both peak flows and contaminant transport to our valuable water resources.
Each group of students was tasked with calculating the roof area of their museum wing and then to calculate the runoff volume for a typical storm event that occurs in southwestern Pennsylvania. They were then able to calculate the reduction in runoff that could be achieved by implementation of green infrastructure (i.e. green roofs or planted courtyards).
The session concluded with an activity that involved creating a small scale wastewater treatment system. Teams competed to create a wastewater treatment system within a funnel using common household materials like sand, baking soda, coffee filters, charcoal, cheese cloth and pebbles. The teams then competed to see whose system provided the cleanest looking treated water. Every team was able to produce an effective treatment system and had some fun in the process.
In summary, the students learned simple stormwater management practices and engineering methods (calculations and BMPs) to improve developments within urban environment. The activities allowed the students to see firsthand how stormwater impacts can be managed to improve the quality of surface waters and the quality of life for people living in the urban setting. The lessons were well received by the students and it appeared that the students were engaged and genuinely interested in the subject matter. Everyone involved, including the students and mentors enjoyed themselves while learning and applying water management principles.
Our appreciation goes out to The Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania and Tetra Tech, Inc., for providing support for this session.
Read more about the ACE Mentor Program or the Pittsburgh ACE program, or contact Linda Kaplan, Karen Mueser, or Nicholle Piper for more information or to volunteer for future sessions.