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ACE 2016-17: Reconnecting Communities and Opportunities

04 May 2017 8:36 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

By Linda Kaplan, PE

The Western Pennsylvania ACE Mentoring program introduces interested High School students to various disciplines within the Architecture, Construction, and Engineering fields.  The program runs from October to May, with the students meeting every other week.  For the first 6 weeks of the program the sessions focus on introducing some of the major ACE fields: architectural design, civil/site engineering, structural engineering, urban planning, MEP engineering, and construction management.  ASCE representatives provided the background presentations and activities for both the civil/site engineering and structural engineering sessions in Fall 2016. 

For the second half of the program students split into teams to develop the design of a real life local project. Team members will each take on different roles: architect, civil engineer, structural engineer, urban planner, contractor, or mechanical/electrical engineer based on their preference from the first half of the program.  Over the course of 4 working sessions the students will meet first with experts representing their assigned project roles to learn more about that field and develop the design.  Students will then meet with their teams to coordinate the overall efforts of each discipline.  At the end of the program project teams will present their work to a panel of judges and one team will “win” the contract.

This year’s project

Students test popsicle stick bridges during the ACE ‘Intro to Structural Engineering’ session at the University of Pittsburgh. In the 1960s, access between two neighborhoods, Downtown Pittsburgh and the Hill District, was severed by the construction of I-579 also known as Crosstown Boulevard. With the demolition of the Civic Arena and construction of PPG Paints Arena, redevelopment of the area aims to help revitalize the Hill District.  Part of those plans include reconnecting the Hill District to Downtown by ‘capping’ I-579 to eliminate the physical barrier between the neighborhoods. Restoring the connection between the communities will offer more convenient and safer access to opportunities for residents of the redeveloping Hill District including jobs, education, and connections to other neighborhoods and services.  Special thanks to HDR Engineering for sharing project information with the students. 

Each team is to develop a concept for the 3-acre (52,800 square foot) project site. The project will consist of the construction of a new structure spanning over a portion of the below-grade I-579 highway, a developed pedestrian and bicycle network, and an urban open space for gathering, along with a building.  The students received an RFP that included deliverables from each of the 6 disciplines.  This format allowed the interested students to get more in-depth with their chosen discipline than previous years and allowed the mentors to introduce more advanced concepts and realistic material. 

ASCE members Linda Kaplan, PE and Karen Mueser, PE led the students of the structural engineering team.  These students were responsible for development of the design of the spanning structure over I-579.  Students used portions of the AASHTO and AISC code, as well as PennDOT standard templates to develop a Type, Size & Location report for their structure.  Their final product included load calculations to size the main members, plan and elevation drawings, as well as a written report. 

“Working with a small group of students who had an expressed interest in structural engineering made this one of the more rewarding ACE experiences for me.” Linda observed.  “The students worked really hard and we were able to take these concepts further than is typical in a high school mentoring environment.”

Member Nicholle Piper, PE organized the activities for the civil/site engineering group.  This group’s deliverables included a site topography plan, stormwater runoff calculations, a site utility plan, and a site plan. The students followed PADEP regulations, City of Pittsburgh code requirements, and a sample zoning ordinance to prepare their deliverables.

The students will be presenting their final projects on May 10th, starting at 5:00 pm at the Carpenters Training Center of Pittsburgh off of the Parkway West.  The event is open to the public, and ASCE members are invited and encouraged to attend to see the impressive work of these students, future members of our profession. 

Pittsburgh Section ASCE Civil Engineers volunteer to  mentor regional high school students.  To join them for the 2017-2018 ACE program. please contact Linda Kaplan or Karen Mueser.


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