UW-Platteville EMS Engineering Seminars Provide Job Insights

What does it take to be able to start and finish an engineering project? To get insight into real-life engineering projects, students can attend the UW-Platteville EMS Engineering Seminar Series, which brings real-world experiences and projects to students and the public. Dr. Danny Xiao is an assistant professor of civil engineering and is the organizer of these events.
According to Dr. Xiao, the point of these seminars is to “empower each student to become broader in perspective, intellectually more astute and contribute wisely to our community,” and the series “provides a networking opportunity for attendees.”
Due to COVID-19, these seminars have moved online, so they have become less of a networking event and more an insight into a real-life engineering project.
One of these seminars took place on Nov. 10. The guest speakers for this event were Lauren Ray, a UW-Platteville alumna and structural engineer, and Marc Ruden, a University of Iowa alumnus and municipal engineer. Both Ray and Ruden are from an engineering and architecture firm called IIW, P.C.
The project that they are working on is the Bee Branch Pumping Station, which was started because Dubuque has flooding issues during storms. This project was started in 2008 and was expected to be completed in 2021. Due to COVID-19, this project has been pushed back, and the bidding for construction of this project does not start until 2021.
When coming up with a design for this new pumping station, Ray and Ruden had to make sure they were solving multiple problems. The plans for this project are to replace the flood gates, repair the concrete gate and wing walls, and find a way to release pressure from the pumping station.
“Another element here is the maintenance of the existing pumping station, it’s very difficult,” Ruden said.
“The standby generators and turbine pumps were only able to be removed by cranes due to low lying high voltage powerlines that were in the area,” Ruden explained. “Also, with the old station, they could only access the main gate seal by diving underwater. With the new design of the pumping station, they are able to utilize the current 12×12 culverts for easier construction. With the new pumping station, they wanted to fix these things for easier maintenance so that this station will be able to stay operational for a long time,” Ruden said.
Ruden’s main tips for running a project are not to get discouraged by any setbacks and to model the designs on the computer. One thing that everyone should know while working on a project is that there tend to be unexpected delays, and people must do their best to work around them. If people don’t work around these setbacks, the project will keep getting pushed back.
Modeling designs on the computer is a very helpful technique to determine where everything will fit, how it all looks and make sure everything needed is included in the design. For these projects, three different modeling software programs were used.
“As a structural design team there were several times throughout the process that we kind of patted ourselves on the back or thanked ourselves for deciding to go this way with modeling everything in three dimensions, because there’s a lot of complexity to the structure and just understanding how everything fits together was so much easier when we modeled it in 3D,” Ray said.