Kansas State University design team ties for first place in regional competition
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
MANHATTAN — A team of five Kansas State University students tied for first place in the 2016 Great Plains Low Impact Development Student Design Competition in Omaha, Nebraska, March 7-9.
The team included Kari Bigham, master's student in biological and agricultural engineering, Grantville; Erica Schmitz, senior in biological systems engineering, Hiawatha; Jonathan Knight, senior in landscape architecture, Wichita; Conner Bruns, senior in landscape architecture, Lee's Summit, Missouri; and Kelsey McDonogh, doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, Jamestown, Rhode Island.
The team was advised by Trisha Moore, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering; Stacy Hutchinson, professor of biological and agricultural engineering; and Lee Skabelund, associate professor of landscape architecture and regional & community planning.
The students completed an innovative low impact design to rehabilitate Omaha's Gifford Park, an area with significant flooding and water pollution problems. Skabelund said events like this are valuable venues to propel students to think creatively and critically about what features could be installed or altered in an area, landscape or site.
The project focused on how low impact development can help reduce or even eliminate combined sanitary and storm sewer overflows, a phenomenon in which storm surges cause storm water to mix with human waste, thereby polluting nearby rivers, streams, lakes and ponds.
"Competitions provide opportunities to think outside the box and to not be overly constrained by traditions, limitations or expectations," Skabelund said. "As such, this focused, rapid design process will help local community members think about their neighborhood and park in some, fresh, new and innovative ways."
The students had only about a week to develop their project after pulling together a team, so the time constraints limited the extent of their designs. McDonough said the committed teammates overcame the challenge of a short deadline by communicating consistently.
One of the competition's requirements was that teams include both engineers and architects. Skabelund said the engineers provided in-depth analysis and modeling to address flooding issues, while the architects offered creative planning and design, coupled with engaging visualizations.
Bigham said working on teams with students from different academic fields can be challenging, but it is worth it to have teammates with complementary strengths working together toward a unified goal.
According to Skabelund, the completed submission is now in the hands of decision-makers in Omaha who have the option to fine-tune and implement ideas the community supports.
McDonough hopes the project inspires Omaha's leaders to discuss benefits of low impact development and educate citizens about environmentally focused engineering solutions.
Bruns would like to see the project blossom into something even further-reaching than Omaha's Gifford Park. He hopes the project contributes to a broader dialogue about how cities can better manage urban storm water and mitigate combined sewer overflows while providing a social benefit: upgraded parks that integrate ecological and community benefits.
"Our fundamental relationship with water will never change; we depend on it for life," he said. "Therefore, we should all try to understand how we can incorporate resilient hydrologic systems into our ever-urbanizing world."