Explore UAB

Civil Engineering students present final projects before panels of industry judges

A construction site in Gadsden, Alabama has been the subject of intense scrutiny by UAB engineering students in recent months. The site—an abandoned community center that was demolished to make way for new construction—was chosen as the basis for this year’s senior design project in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering.

The students worked in teams throughout the spring semester to put together initial evaluation and plan documents for one of two projects—a site project or a building project. And even though the work the students put in was essentially an academic exercise, the projects were based off actual reference information provided by industry partners MBA Engineers, Inc. and MAK Structural Engineering.

“This is an actual construction project that presented some interesting challenges,” said course instructor George Talley, an Operations Manager for Brasfield and Gorrie and Adjunct Instructor for CCEE Senior Design. “These companies graciously supplied us with the background information they used, and that served as the basis for the students to create their plans for how to tackle the separate phases of the project.”

Each team incorporated some combination of the six key sub-disciplines stressed in UAB’s civil engineering curriculum:

  1. Structural
  2. Geotechnical
  3. Construction Engineering Management
  4. Environmental (stormwater/utilities)
  5. Transportation
  6. Sustainability

The sixth element, Talley says, has become a point of emphasis in recent years as the CCEE senior design course has incorporated the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s “Envision” framework for Site projects and LEED criteria for Building projects.

“In some ways, we ask students to do even more than they might have to do on a real project, because of that deliberate focus on sustainability,” Talley said. “Over the past several years, UAB has stressed sustainability in the curriculum to support graduates being conscious of ways they can incorporate more sustainable practices in all phases of design and construction.”

The projects culminated in April when each of the five teams gave a final presentation before a panel of industry judges—many of whom are UAB CCEE alumni.

“The goal of this project is for students to create plans that cover all Civil related aspects of this specific construction project,” said Talley. “But this is more than an assignment. Students have to explain their plans and defend their decision-making to professionals who are implementing these types of plans in the field.”

That second part, Talley says, is an invaluable part of the Senior Design experience. “There aren’t many general or easy questions,” he said. “The judges have the opportunity to review the plans and reports to challenge the students on all aspects of their designs. If a professional asks about a potential problem in a design, it’s because they’ve seen that problem before. They know what kinds of roadblocks these students will face when they try to implement these types of large-scale plans on the jobsite.”

Because their input brings so much value to the project, Talley says he is deeply appreciative of the companies who allow their employees to participate. In addition to MBA Engineers and MAK Engineering, this year’s industry panels included personnel from the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), Bhate Geosciences Corporation, and LBYD Engineers.

Industry participants were:

  • Michael Kingsmore (MAK Engineering)
  • Drew Thornbury (MBA Engineers)
  • Tom Callison (MBA Engineers)
  • Mark Ohlman (MBA Engineers)
  • Matt Angwin (MBA Engineers)
  • Maqueshia Brown (ALDOT)
  • Wyatt Jacobs (ALDOT)
  • Nathan Boswell (ALDOT)
  • Anna Sanford (LBYD)
  • Chase Douglas (LBYD)
  • Corbin Fige (LBYD)
  • Jon McGinnis (LBYD)
  • David Johnson (Bhate)

Images below are from the site project presentations on April 19, 2024. Two other teams presented their building projects the previous week.