Wednesday, April 15, 2009


NCEES (National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying) announced that the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of Florida A&M University–Florida State University was the $25,000 grand prize winner of the 2009 NCEES Engineering Award for Connecting Professional Practice and Education. NCEES is the body which controls the licensing exams for engineers.

Additionally, a second tier of five projects were awarded $7,500, one of which was our own civil engineering capstone design team. The second tier included: University of Missouri–Kansas City, Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering; University of Arizona, Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics; Seattle University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Department of Civil Engineering; and, Virginia Tech, Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. NCEES will travel to present the award to UMKC on April 30, 2009.

The NCEES Engineering Award recognizes engineering programs that demonstrate meaningful partnerships between professional engineers and students. All EAC/ABET-accredited engineering programs were invited to enter projects that demonstrated such a partnership.

UMKC’s award-winning civil engineering capstone class grew out of campus discussions about service-learning in 2002. Deb O’Bannon, Ph.D., P.E. (associate professor of civil engineering) approached the Kansas City Department of Public Works to see if they had any right-sized projects appropriate for civil engineering seniors. “Right-sized” is a challenge for civil engineering: civil engineers usually design large, civic structures that are far too large and complex for students. At that time, Public Works had a backlog of small projects suitable for UMKC seniors. Tom Kimes, P.E. (UMKC alumnus, 1987) was given release time from the City to help the students negotiate the design project. The projects (2003-present) have been two-lane, traffic-bearing bridge replace-ment projects over water in Kansas City, MO. These small projects bring a great deal of complexity for the students, which include managing construction within a real site, easements and rights-of-way, traffic, environmental permitting, hydrology and bridge hydraulics.

The participation of Kimes, now working at HDR, and Erich Schmitz of TranSystems (UMKC alumnus, 2005), is essential to the success of the civil capstone class. Kimes and Schmitz, both adjunct professors, have the experience of producing engineering designs and O’Bannon manages the class and its educational outcomes. Kimes, Schmitz and O’Bannon have presented the effectiveness of this capstone experience on preparing our students for the profession at several national conferences, and wrote an invited paper for a new public works journal in 2008. NCEES has recognized our program for this significant and sustainable teamwork between industry practitioners, the municipality and the university which provides a meaningful educational experience for our students.

-Written by Deb O’Bannon, Ph.D., P.E, Associate Professor, Civil Engineering

*Pictures: Deb O'Bannon (1st on left), Thomas Kimes (on right side), and Erich Schmitz (2nd on left)

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