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ACE Mentoring Part 2: Introducing High School Students and Future Community Leaders to Site Development and Concrete Design

04 Feb 2016 2:31 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

By Linda Kaplan, P.E.,  and Nicholle Piper

The second session for the Civil Engineering Western Pennsylvania ACE [Architecture, Construction, Engineering] Mentor Program was held at Mascaro Construction on November 18, 2015.  

This year’s project is the design of a summer camp, with a focus on sustainability and using the natural landscape (previously reported on here).  Each student was responsible for a cabin design, and each group was responsible for the design of central camp elements.  Approximately 40 students attended the second session to further the design of their camps by preparing civil engineering site layout plans. 

The second session began with a presentation that provided an overview of civil engineering, describing the history and the sub-disciplines, including environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, site/civil engineering, transportation engineering, structural engineering, and water resources engineering. In addition, a natural resources scientist from Langan Engineering explained landscape architecture, identifying wetlands and stream boundaries, and permitting impacts to aquatic features.

After the presentation, the students divided into their groups and were provided a 24”x 36” site background plan and a sample ordinance.  The site background plan provided existing features including a stream, wetland, and road as well as contour lines that represent elevations.  The ordinance provided design criteria for the proposed sidewalk access, parking spots, loading areas, drop-off locations, and dumpster areas.  In addition, the ordinance provided instructions for the stormwater management design, wetland and stream encroachments, and utility layout (including sanitary sewer, electric, water, and gas service).  Each group used color pencils to layout the various site utilities, following the APWA/CGA color code (per ANSI Standard Z535.1).  The groups then presented the civil engineering design of each camp, describing the iterations since the October 21, 2015 preliminary plans.

The students met again on December 2, 2015 at the Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania, this time to learn about Structural Engineering, led by SEI Pittsburgh.

The session concentrated on concrete design since steel has been presented the past several years. Beginning with a presentation about structural engineering, the focus then shifted to the details of concrete mix design.   Each of the four main components of concrete were discussed: Portland Cement, large aggregates, small aggregates, and water. Additionally, various forms of concrete tests were presented, including compression tests and slump tests.  Then, using the calculations presented, each group was charged with developing a mix design for the bridge abutments that would be on their camp site.  The students were tasked with designing their concrete to meet a specified slump. The students had to scale down their design to determine the ratio of components they would need, assuming 1 pound of Portland Cement.

After their mix design was “approved” the students had the opportunity to mix a small batch of their concrete and test their slump.  Each group was given 1 pound of Portland cement and could then request their required amounts of large and small aggregates, and water.  They then mixed their concrete in 5 gallon buckets, and used a modified slump cone to test the workability of their design.  This hands on activity gave the students a thorough understanding of concrete variability and the application of their design.

The ACE mentoring program is an opportunity for students to learn about various ACE disciplines before picking a college program.  A majority of the participants enroll in Architecture or Engineering undergrad programs.  ACE is well respected by various college admissions personnel and offers some significant scholarships at the end of the year.

Our appreciation to ESWP for allowing us to mix concrete in their banquet hall, and to the Keystone-Mountain-Lakes Carpenters Union for their assistance with supplies, set up, and clean up.  


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