Helping Undergraduates Further Their Engineering Education
The brainchild of an enterprising civil engineering senior, the CAEE Undergraduate Advisory Board (UAB) was established two years ago with the goal of enhancing the undergraduate experience of civil and architectural engineering students. The organization closely collaborates with the department and industry to provide field trips, guest speakers, research forums, and other activities.
This year, students have already participated in three informative and unique field trips. At the beginning of the semester, they visited Schlumburger yard in San Antonio for an up-close look at company’s hydraulic fracturing process. They observed active equipment, such as fracking trucks, and learned how the lab manufactures materials used to fracture soil.
In February, students toured Austin’s historic St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is undergoing a massive restoration. They were accompanied by Richard Miscoe, president of Miscoe Builders and Developers, and general contractor for the project.
The cathedral is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is rare for its manner of construction, which in many places consists of only unreinforced stacked limestone. The cathedral’s rose window has cracked spokes and is no longer weight-bearing. Additionally, parts of the stonework have become cracked from the expansion and contraction of steel rods due to moisture, and some are no longer anchored to the building. Attention was drawn to the cathedral’s urgent need for renovations when stone began to fall on the surrounding sidewalk two years ago.
UAB Co-Chair Wonju Jeong (civil engineering senior) says, “These tours are important because they give students real life exposure to the concepts we learn in the classroom.”
As a direct result of the cathedral tour, students also learned more about Wiss, Janney, Elstner and Associates’ (WJE) nondestructive testing methods such as ground penetrating radar service when they toured the firm’s Austin lab.
Increasing numbers of students are interested in undergraduate research opportunities. In response, CAEE UAB organized a forum to introduce students to research at UT, and to promote graduate studies. Professors from various disciplines within the department were invited to make presentations about their research areas and activities. They also discussed potential research positions specifically suited to undergraduates. In addition, the research forum provided a platform for students to become better acquainted with faculty and to further network about their research interests.
CAEE UAB also plans to hold “Tips and Treats” sessions which will focus on issues key to student success. A short orientation information session for transfer students and freshman will take place as well as a session which will bring underclassmen and upperclassmen together to discuss tips for course registration, studying for finals, and what to expect from higher level courses as they get closer to completing their degrees.
UAB Co-Chair Janette Arteaga (civil engineering senior) is hopeful that these sessions will help students have more successful semesters and feel connected to the department whether they are new to the department or a semester shy of graduating. She says, “The success of UAB depends on the involvement of fellow students and the organization strongly encourages people to help make an impact on the undergraduate experience.”