Pitt | Swanson Engineering
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Feb

Feb
7
2018

Master Builders’ Association Awards $15,000 to Pitt Civil Engineering Students

Civil & Environmental, Student Profiles

PITTSBURGH (February 7, 2018) … The Master Builders’ Association of Western Pennsylvania, Inc. (MBA) and the Construction Advancement Program (CAP) honored three University of Pittsburgh students with $15,000 in scholarships at the MBA’s Annual Membership Reception. All three students belonged to the Swanson School’s undergraduate Civil Engineering Program and focus on Construction Management.The top prize of $10,000 went to Alexander Citerone, and second place went to Nicole Bell and Kate Lundy, who were in a statistical tie and split awards of $2,500 at the annual banquet on January 19 at the Duquesne Club in downtown Pittsburgh.“Construction Management encompasses a broad skill set capable of meeting modern challenges in building, and rebuilding, public and private infrastructure,” said John T. Sebastian, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt. “These are some of the most remarkable students at the University, and we’re grateful for the MBA’s and CAP’s investment in their success.”Mr. Sebastian joined Pitt in 2015 as the inaugural McKamish Construction Management Director. In addition to developing an undergraduate concentration in Construction Management, the Directorship established the MS in Civil Engineering with a Construction Management Focus at Pitt, which emphasizes managerial decision-making in an engineering context. The MBA and CAP have awarded nearly $180,000 in annual scholarships to Pitt students since 1998. The scholarship program began through a collaboration between CAP and Pitt Engineering that identified Construction Management as a critical area of focus to improve the skills and marketability of Pitt graduates as well as the quality of engineers entering the workforce after graduation.About CAPThe Construction Advancement Program is a service organization established in 1961 via the collective bargaining agreements between the MBA and the various building trade unions. The primary function of CAP is to provide services benefiting all persons, management, and labor alike, who earn their living in union construction.About the MBASince 1886, MBA contractors have set the standard in Western PA for construction excellence by investing in a skilled workforce, implementing award-winning safety programs, and offering the best management expertise. For more information on the MBA, please call 412-922-3912 or visit www.mbawpa.org. ### Above image: Alexander Citerone (left) and Kate Lundy (right) at the Master Builders' Association Annual Membership Reception
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Feb
7
2018

Growing a more sustainable banana

Civil & Environmental

Read the full article at NPR. ...Disease threatens the Cavendish banana, too. A similar fungal strain to Panama disease, called Tropical Race 4, has decimated banana crops in recent years. So conventional banana cultivation relies on a mix of fungicides, herbicides and nematocides, says Carla Ng, an environmental engineer at the University of Pittsburgh who has studied pesticide runoff from banana farms. Ng says that the levels of pesticides that wind up in your banana are regulated to be within a safe range for consumption. But her research has found that pesticides sprayed on conventional banana crops can put surrounding ecosystems at risk. "Even when the fruit are perfectly well below [pesticide limits for humans], you can still reach peak concentrations in the environment that are above critical toxic thresholds," Ng says. She says pesticide runoff from bananas can wind up concentrating in waterways, threatening fish and other water dwellers.

Feb
5
2018

Data-driven dialogue

Civil & Environmental

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (February 5, 2018) ... It’s been a decade since the start of the Marcellus Shale gas boom in Pennsylvania, and today more than 10,000 unconventional gas wells dot the state’s hills and valleys. The industry’s rapid development created economic opportunities for many, but also brought environmental concerns, and sometimes led to contentious conversations. A team of researchers studying water quality around hydraulic fracturing, the process used to extract gas from rock deep underground, have found a blueprint to move those conversations forward. Shale Network for the past six years has fostered a dialogue about shale drilling between concerned citizens, watershed groups, government regulators and personnel from large energy companies by focusing on publicly available water quality data. An annual workshop hosted at the Penn State’s University Park campus gives people a chance to come together, learn about the latest water quality research and data, and talk about ways to move forward together. “I don’t believe that anyone else was able to bring such a diverse group of people together to discuss this extremely complex problem from their unique perspectives, with a common goal to jointly advance the understanding of this problem and rationally discuss possible ways forward,” noted Radisav Vidic, the William Kepler Whiteford Professor and Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and a Shale Network member. A shared interest in gathering, discussing and improving water quality data among diverse groups can lead to productive conversations that data alone cannot address, the scientists reported in “Engaging over data on fracking and water quality,” published in the journal Science (DOI: 10.1126/science.aan6520). “We’ve been trying to figure out how to pull people together and look at numbers to understand impacts,” said Susan Brantley, distinguished professor of geosciences and director of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State. “That can lead to better decisions. “That’s really what Shale Network is all about,” said Brantley, who is lead investigator of the group. “We want to help everyone understand what the numbers — in this case water chemistry numbers — mean related to shale gas development.” For the past six years, Shale Network researchers have collected and published water quality data online. Their database contains more than a million pieces of data from 28,000 locations across the state, some never available before. The Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUAHSI) hosts the public database with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). “We have all these data points that are starting to be at our fingertips, and we have computational tools to work with the data,” Brantley said. “Yet, the numbers don’t mean anything unless you are working together. Not just with geologists or geochemists, but people who live in the area the data comes from. You need that collaboration to understand what the numbers mean. Local community members teach us about their landscapes and their needs.” Brantley said people know what is happening in their backyards. Watershed groups near Pittsburgh, for instance, know to look out for discharge from old coalmines, which wouldn’t be a factor in other parts of the state. The database has proven useful, but even more important has been the process of building it, the researchers said in the paper. Collaborations between diverse stakeholders have helped forge a social network with diverse perspectives and concerns. “We may have developed a blueprint for how to engage different stakeholders and develop a commonality of purpose even in something as controversial and complicated as unconventional gas extraction,” Vidic said. “Perhaps this blueprint can be applied for the same problem elsewhere in the world or for other complex problems.” Shale Network researchers act as honest brokers in discussions like those that take place at the group’s annual workshops. “We are not trying to prove fracking is bad,” Brantley said. “We are not trying to prove water quality is perfect. We are trying to look at what the water chemistry looks like in the areas where fracking is occurring and help all kinds of people talk about that together.” Co-authors include Kathryn Brasier, associate professor of rural sociology, Dave Yoxtheimer, EESI research assistant, and Tao Wen, a post-doctoral scholar, all at Penn State; Candie Wilderman, professor emerita at Dickinson College; and Jonathan Pollack, CUAHSI program manager. Founded in 2010 with NSF funding, the Shale Network is a collaborative effort between Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Dickinson College and CUAHSI to collect and analyze data on water quality in the Marcellus Shale drilling region. ###
Matt Carroll, Science Writer, Penn State Earth and Environmental Systems Institute

Jan

Jan
31
2018

Pitt “Inventor Labs” Look to Inspire the Next Generation of Green Engineers

Civil & Environmental

PITTSBURGH (January 31, 2018) … A new grant awarded to the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering will encourage collaboration between university engineering students and K-12 students across the region. The funding will support the creation of Inventor Labs that strengthen community ties by providing hands-on learning spaces in underserved schools and communities in the region.“Our goal is to engage students from a young age through the time they start applying to colleges by giving them opportunities to interact with science and technology,” says David Sanchez, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental engineering and Assistant Director at the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at Pitt. “This is the third consecutive year Pitt received the award, and it will help us continue to grow the large network of University resources we share with our community neighbors.”The $35,000 grant comes from Constellation, an Exelon company—a provider of power, natural gas, and renewable energy headquartered in Baltimore—as part of its E2 Energy to Educate program. Dr. Sanchez is the director of the Energy to Educate program at Pitt and coordinates University efforts to engage K-12 students, teachers, and communities with concepts in clean energy solutions and sustainability.“The Community Engagement Center and the Manufacturing Assistance Center Makerspace are two existing programs at the University of Pittsburgh we are leveraging in particular to help achieve our goal of strengthening our community presence and creating opportunities for students to learn about energy and sustainable engineering,” Dr. Sanchez says.The heart of the project is student participation and the development of student-made, energy technology prototypes. Through a series of “Design-Build” challenges, students will learn about sustainability issues surrounding electric cars, wind and water turbines, and waste-heat and wastewater.“The Design-Build challenges are based on engineering concepts linked to Pittsburgh themes like self-driving car initiatives and an abundance of dams and rivers,” adds Dr. Sanchez.Dr. Sanchez plans to help a total of 60 student teams this year learn about engineering design, embedded systems, programming, and energy devices. Students will be able to showcase their creations at their schools, enter them in tech competitions, and implement them in their communities.“The students will be building electric cars powered by Lithium-ion batteries, small-scale wind turbines, and solar panels to power water treatment pumps,” says Dr. Sanchez. “The really interesting thing is the students will get feedback on their prototypes from engineers currently working in the energy field.”Last year alone, the award funding helped Pitt directly impact more than 1,500 students from universities, charter schools, middle schools, and outreach programs. The “Teach the Teacher” program, a two-day workshop at the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation, indirectly impacted an additional 1,300 students by instructing teachers from the region how to integrate sustainable engineering concepts into their classrooms.The award also supported collaboration with Swanson School student clubs and local pre-college students. Dr. Sanchez participated in The Society of Women Engineers’ “Girls Engineering in Middle School” day and taught them how to build electrical circuits out of clay. He also helped high school and middle school students build wind turbines at The National Society of Black Engineers “A Walk for Education,” their largest service and outreach program. Constellation also served as one of the sponsors for the Design EXPO showcasing more than 90 projects from 400 Pitt engineering students.“In the same way we strive to find sustainable solutions to engineering challenges, we want to use this funding to create a sustainable impact on the community. Enhancing the personal and technical formation of each of these students in the realm of energy and sustainable engineering is not only a joy to be a part of but an opportunity to build long term community equity,” says Dr. Sanchez. ###
Matt Cichowicz, Communications Writer
Jan
7
2018

Road to Success

Civil & Environmental

Professor Mark Magalotti comments on how improved vehicle efficiency has impacted infrastructure funding. View the video and transcript here.
Full Measure
Jan
3
2018

CEE's Andy Bunger Collaborates with LSU Faculty in Gulf Research Grant

Civil & Environmental

12-07-17 LSU Craft & Hawkins Department of Petroleum Engineering faculty Wesley Williams and Mileva Radonjic received more than $7.5 million of the total $10.8 million awarded today by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to projects that address systemic risk in offshore oil and gas operations.Williams, a professional in residence, received $4,910,000 for his project, “Experiments on Multiphase Flow of Live Muds in a Full-Scale Wellbore With Distributed Sensing for Kick and Gas-in-Riser Detection/Mitigation.” The research is being conducted in cooperation with Texas A&M University and Weatherford.Radonjic, an associate professor, received $2,614,000 for her project, “Mitigating Risks to Hydrocarbon Release Through Integrative Advanced Materials for Wellbore Plugging and Remediation.” The work is being conducted in cooperation with LSU Petroleum Engineering Assistant Professor Ipsita Gupta, Andrew Bunger from the University of Pittsburgh, Raissa Feron from the University of Texas at Austin and Malin Torsater from SINTEF, a research company in Norway. Read the full article here.
Joshua Duplechain, Director of Communications, LSU