Students 'Flush Away 2020'
By Michael HenningerMedia Inquiries
- Marketing and Communications
One class at Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering may have an answer — to flush 2020 down the toilet.
Assistant Teaching Professor Sarah Christian and lab engineer Brian Belowich designed a project for the students of "Civil and Environmental Engineering Challenges: Design in a Changing World" called "Take the Plunge." The assignment had teams comprising both fully remote and hybrid members design a bridge connected to a ramp capable of sending a bowling ball, representing 2020, into a toilet bowl.
Sarah Christian, left, and Brian Belowich test one of the student ramps.
The ramps guided a bowling ball, representing 2020, into a toilet.
Reilly McManus, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering, worked on a team where she and two other classmates based in Pittsburgh worked with three remote students. Remote members of the class used Zoom to attend planning sessions from as far as South Korea. While actually in the classroom, McManus and her classmates maintained 6 feet of separation, wore masks and, when appropriate, face shields.
"Everyone here is doing their part to make sure the coronavirus isn't being spread," said McManus, "I never see anyone on campus without a mask."
McManus and her group approached the project with sustainability in mind, trying to create a bridge that was environmentally and economically sustainable. Their bridge ended up using the fewest beams and weighing the least of all the class projects.
The class was an important factor for McManus in deciding to return to the Pittsburgh campus this fall for hybrid learning.
"Professor Christian definitely takes the time with the students on Zoom to make sure they're getting as good an experience online as we are in person," McManus said. "I personally really wanted to come back to campus and be here able to build. In just a month I've already gotten a lot of hands-on experience."
Kojo Aduhene wears a face shield and mask during class.
From left, Brett Gold, Reilly McManus and Kojo Aduhene work on their project.
"I think they did a really good job of trying to make things focused on the work, but not so serious. We have the room to actually enjoy what we're doing," Aduhene said.
Once the builds were complete, the class gathered to test the projects. Had they been successful in their attempt to send 2020 down the drain?
"Some bridges were faster than others, but they all worked and none of them broke or fell apart," Aduhene said. "I remember the one we had designed deformed a bit. As the ball was going, it got a little bit of air. But it still landed into the toilet. It was kind of nerve wracking and a lot of fun."