March 17, 2022
The Evolution of CEE: Preparing the Next Generation of Engineers and Problem Solvers
CEE’s latest initiatives have included the launch of an Environmental Engineering bachelor’s program, new lab courses for Civil Engineering undergraduates, a stronger emphasis on sensors in design courses, and a growing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Overseen by Department Head Dave Dzombak, our faculty and staff are equipping students to become skilled problem-solvers, critical thinkers, and industry leaders who apply a deep understanding of CEE principles, technology, and tools to make communities around the world safer, more equitable, and more inclusive for all.
New Labs Prepare CivE Students for Practice & Problem-Solving
A new lab course sequence for Civil Engineering undergraduates is underway, designed to bolster students’ understanding of real-world applications and problem-solving.
First up among the new labs is the sophomore CEE Infrastructure Systems in Action lab. This lab combined short lectures with local field trips, including tours of active construction sites and of the Carnegie Mellon steam tunnels that house heating and cooling systems, water lines, and other underground infrastructure. Off-campus, students visited Phipps Conservatory to learn about its sustainable building features.
“The goal is for students to get acquainted with different civil infrastructure systems in person, such that when they are designing these systems, they have a better awareness of what they look like and a more intuitive feel for them,” explains professor David Rounce.
The class also discussed issues of equity and social justice in engineering, including the impacts of redlining and how climate change is exacerbating existing problems. Armed with redlining maps, the group then traveled to the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh and took a walk along the district lines. At times, the difference in infrastructure investment was glaring, giving students an eye-opening perspective on how redlining that happened almost a century ago still leaves marks today. Their trip ended in the newly built Liberty Green Park, home to innovative green infrastructure.
"We want them to be the leaders. Our hope is that, with this new sequence, we teach students a process of inquiry and how to work through that process to solve problems in our cities and communities.”
“Liberty Green Park is an excellent example of how we can reinvest in areas and support green spaces that have not only stormwater benefits but all sorts of health benefits,” says Rounce. “Our conversation at the park was about what we can do as engineers moving forward to create change and be part of the solution.”
In addition, two other CivE labs have been introduced, both focused on sensing. In Sensing and Data Acquisition for Engineering Systems, sophomores learn about the array of tools available to engineers, including when and how they can be used to solve problems. As juniors, CivE students will practice applying this knowledge in the Experimental & Sensing Systems Design and Computation for Infrastructure Systems lab.
“There are many new tools out there that we as engineers should be able to understand and use,” says professor Sarah Christian, who co-teaches the sophomore sensing lab with professor Fethiye Ozis. “There are opportunities for us to improve and innovate and we want our engineers to be the people who do that. We want them to be the leaders. Our hope is that, with this new sequence, we teach students a process of inquiry and how to work through that process to solve problems in our cities and communities.”