Feature Stories

Students Apply Engineering Skills to Help Community

four female students smiling, wearing construction vests in a park

Chandni Patel, Kendra Price, Yu-han Yang and Christy Cannon helped construct a retaining wall at park near UT Austin campus. 

Feb. 13, 2014

Over 50 students helped build a retaining wall at a local Austin park as part of a long term community project. The task presented an opportunity to experience the need to balance the demands of engineering, science, policy, law, and business in engineering practice.

Two semesters ago, students from the University of Texas at Austin Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (UT ASCE) learned that a retaining wall near the tennis courts of Eastwoods Park had specific failure points, which posed a problem to members of the community who partake in different sports at the park.  They determined that this wall needed to be demolished and replaced with a more durable one that would withstand numerous weather and physical conditions.  

In collaboration with engineers from the Austin ASCE branch, the students obtained permits from the Austin Parks and Recreation Department to accomplish the demolition of the old retaining wall.

Undergraduate students from the CE 171P Engineering Professionalism course helped design the new wall while UT ASCE volunteers learned step-by-step how to construct a retaining wall through the help of the professional engineers.

All students applied the theoretical aspects of engineering they had learned in the classroom. They also worked with a budget and performed basic project management. On-site safety and how to properly use demolition equipment was also learned.

During the final workdays, students placed rebar and cinderblocks as well as mixed and poured mortar for the foundation. The last day of the project consisted of backfill and landscaping, using mulch and other biological substances.

“These are prime examples of what students have been learning in their engineering classes, including the proportion of water to mortar mixture, drying time, and rebar spacing,” said Alexis Clark, UT ASCE President. “The community will now have a safe and effective retaining wall used for sitting and dividing the tennis courts from the open fields.”  

The project was supported by Bechtel Corporation, Tomek Construction Services, LLC, and the Eastwoods Neighborhood Association.