For U of Notre Dame Engineering Students, an Anticipated Visit to the New NY Bridge Site

Annual field trips introduce the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences (CEEES) students to some of the largest and most innovative infrastructure design and construction projects underway nationwide.

Students observe first-hand the dire need to rebuild, not always repair, the failing systems, meet one-on-one with project and design engineers, explore available opportunities, and connect their classroom learning to field experience.

CEEES students at the project site, one of several stops during a five-day trip/Graduate student Andrew Bartolini

CEEES students at the project site, one of several stops during a five-day trip/Graduate student Andrew Bartolini

And like every well-planned excursion, they cover all bases, including fun.

“These trips to New York and New Orleans, and other areas, help students see the wide range of opportunities available to become innovative leaders and also help connect the classroom to the outside world,” CEEES Dept. Chairman Joannes J. Westerink explained.

A graduate of SUNY Buffalo and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Westerink co-developed an authoritative computer model for storm surge used by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state of Louisiana to determine water levels due to hurricane surge and to design levee heights and alignments.

HDR/TZC structural engineer Michael Zarrella explains how the new design is safer and more efficient/Diane Westerink

HDR/TZC structural engineer Michael Zarrella explains how the new design is safer and more efficient/Diane Westerink

“We provided water levels the storm surge could reach” from models used in our labs to help predict how high the water/surge will be,” he said. “We’ve also gone to big oil facilities and mines in Texas. Trips are themed, and this year’s theme was East Coast Infrastructure: tunnels, bridges, and water.”

Within five busy days, Westerink, his wife Diane E. Westrerink, Coordinator of the Computational Hydraulics Laboratory at Notre Dame, and 60-plus juniors visited numerous infrastructure project sites and water systems.

While the piece de resistance was the New NY Bridge site, the group explored the Midtown Tunnel in Portsmouth, VA, the DC Water Filtration Plant, Tunnel Fabrication Yards in Sparrows Point, MD, the Bayonne Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, the World Trade Center site and memorial — and saw Notre Dame play Syracuse at the MetLife Stadium.

Environmental engineer Chris Coccaro details protective measures prior to and during construction/Diane Westerink

Environmental engineer Chris Coccaro details protective measures prior to and during construction/Diane Westerink

Citing the Bayonne Bridge, Joannes Westerink noted the challenge of the bridge project is how to keep the old bridge standing while building a new cable-stayed bridge without the centerpiece angling it. While the Chesapeake Bay prohibited a bridge because of the nearby naval yards, Westerink noted, “It’s interesting they (project officials) wouldn’t do a tunnel like that.”

If only he knew about the bridge vs. tunnel debates that ensued!

“They did a good job explaining environmental monitoring and resuspension, toxic sediments and marine life, placement of the piles,” he said. “Much of what we see is on the back end (planning), and we really enjoyed talking with those working on the front end of the project.”

Special project advisor Brian Conybeare explains TZC's financial commitments to the project/Diane Westerink

Special project advisor Brian Conybeare explains TZC’s financial commitments to the project/Diane Westerink

On design-build: “I like it. It’s really just a better cooperation, saves money, and forces the team into a certain budget. The level of cooperation is wonderful. We talk about this in our lecture series.”

If you want a high level of mobility in an economy that hums, he said, you need infrastructure, a healthy water supply, roads, and sewer system. “It’s all important, and you don’t realize what you have until you don’t have it.”

This is the ninth year Westerink has taken CEEES students on expanded field trips. “There’s a 20 to 30 percent growth rate in terms of job openings in the next decade, per the U.S. Department of Labor, a high demand. We need to get these kids into big projects and keep them focused on how the economy and the country serve one another.”

“The New NY Bridge is a once in a lifetime project and we want it to inspire local students at all levels from graduate school and college down to elementary classrooms. The goal of our educational outreach effort at all levels is to use this historic infrastructure project to inspire the next generation of bridge builders here in New York.” — Brian Conybeare, Special Project Advisor to Governor Andrew Cuomo

It’s important for civil and environmental engineers to see what’s applicable in the job market, to see why they’re learning what they are, the problems and challenges. “Our students are highly-trained before they’re employed and do internships during summers, or work in labs. Some work, some get their master degrees. Most eventually do, and some get PhD degrees.”

Curious about what goes on below the river's surface? Ask geotech engineer Tony Canale, MR, NYSTA/Diane Westerink

Curious about what goes on below the river’s surface? Ask geotech engineer Tony Canale, MR, NYSTA/Diane Westerink

On another note: Westerink said his students love the field trips. “New York has always been hospitable to us, and our students really want to help their country. They view it as profession where they’re helping people. You don’t think of the incredible infrastructure that helps us through the day.”

You can be sure a return trip is planned!

I’d like to know what you think.

Copyright © Janie Rosman and Kaleidoscope Eyes 2014

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: