Students take on tough Bay Area construction projects
Engineering class teaches undergrads to take creative approach to sensitive, engineering projects

By Eliza Haskins, College of Engineering

12 September 2001 | Would a floating runway at San Francisco International Airport solve its perennial congestion problems? Can the Oakland Public Library expand without disturbing the surrounding community? How would an artificial reef help reduce erosion at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach?

Berkeley engineering students were challenged to come up with some answers to these difficult questions as part of a class project last spring. Seniors and graduate students in professor Robert Bea’s “CEE 180: Construction, Maintenance and Design of Civil and Environmental Engineered Systems” class formed three teams and came up with their own ideas for projects.

“Each team was responsible for choosing a panel of consultants from industry, government and faculty,” said Bea. “Then they had to develop a formal engineering report, build a physical scale model and make a formal presentation.”

The presentations were judged by a panel of experts, who scored each group based on the quality of the work, as well as the depth of the students’ understanding of the project and its key issues.

Each team presented inventive ideas and creative solutions to realistic as well as existing projects.

The team investigating a floating runway for the San Francisco International Airport, for example, took into account the elevation due to tidal cycle as well as earthquake shifts. The group also addressed environmental impacts such as dredging and filling and how that would disrupt current marine life.

The Oakland Library group considered a city of Oakland feasibility study for renovation and concluded that adding a level to the current historic building is the most economical and reasonable solution.

And as a solution to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach erosion, the student group proposed an artificial reef to mitigate erosion, while not sacrificing the aesthetic value of the beach or its role as a northern California surf destination.

The group conducted a multidisciplinary exploration into wave theory, sediment transport, underwater construction and coastal engineering — making sure to include related political, legal, environmental and social implications in their presentation.

“The objective of this course is to teach students how to use the results of their education and reassess currently engineered systems,” said Bea. “By doing these hands-on projects, students need to consider their construction, inspection, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, operation and decommissioning.” In addition, teamwork and communication skills are emphasized.

Bea teaches CEE 180 each spring semester.


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