Engineering team’s water project scores a first for UVic

A screenshot of a computer's screen shows the head and shoulders of the six team members participating in a Zoom video conference

By mid-March, the team of six were meeting online. They also presented their project to the BCWWA remotely.

2020 April – Six Civil Engineering students have become the first UVic team to enter – and win – a province-wide design competition focused on water.

The annual Student Design Competition, held by the BC Water and Waste Association (BCWWA), challenges teams of post-secondary students to use their academic skills and creativity to solve real-world problems.

“We got the email last week saying our team had placed first and everyone was really happy – it was really nice news to receive in the middle of everything that’s going on right now,” said Noah Fanos, leader of the team, which is called CIVVIC.

“Since this was the first time that a UVic team had entered the competition, we wanted to make sure that ‘Civil,’ ‘UVic’ and ‘Victoria’ were all reflected in our name,” he explained.

If circumstances allow, the UVic team will receive $7,500 to cover the cost of participating in two events this fall: a North American design competition in New Orleans and the BCWWA annual conference in Penticton.

“It’s hard to know, even a month from now, where things will be at, so it’s a matter of waiting,” said Fanos. “We’ll keep monitoring the situation to see if we can go and what we’d need to do to prepare.”

Fanos learned about the BCWWA competition during a co-op term last fall at Associated Engineering in Vancouver. In December, he started assembling a team, whose members could all use the competition for their engineering capstone design course.

“The competition’s timing lined up perfectly with our capstone course – all the deadlines and deliverables worked out,” said Fanos, who reached out to his classmates to see if anyone else was interested. In the end, six fourth-year Civil Engineering students comprised the team: Felix Motard, Jacob Riedl, Liam Kirchner, Robin Jory, Brett Mikkelsen and Fanos.

Diving into the project

The team saw the competition as a terrific opportunity to delve into an area they were all interested in – water resource engineering – and build connections for after graduation.

All participating teams had the same assignment: to come up with rainwater management solutions for future townhouse developments along Vancouver’s Cambie Street. The project required teams to provide two innovative solutions to control and treat rainfall runoff from townhomes. One solution involved designing for an existing housing complex, while the other allowed teams to design a new housing complex layout. In both cases, teams had to follow the City of Vancouver’s rainwater management plan, which encourages the use of green infrastructure to reduce runoff and improve water quality, while also addressing other environmental, social and economic considerations.

The team met from early January to mid-March, allocating about nine hours a week to the project. They consulted with their academic advisor, Associate Professor Phalguni Mukhopadhyaya, and industry advisor, Michael MacLatchy, a senior engineer from Associated Engineering.

Before the COVID-19 situation, the group conducted a site visit to Vancouver to view an existing townhome complex. Once physical distancing became the norm, they met remotely and finally presented their project to judges online on March 27.

Looking ahead

Next week, all six CIVVIC team members will be finished their remaining final exams for this term. After that, Motard, Mikkelsen and Kirchner will take a final semester of courses during the summer term and Jory is hoping to complete her final co-op term. Fanos and Riedl will be finished their degrees by the end of this month.

“We had both planned to travel, but that’s been cancelled – or at least postponed – for now,” Fanos said. Fortunately, he has lined up a job at Associated Engineering in water resource engineering, though he’s not exactly sure when he’ll be able to access the company’s offices.

While it remains uncertain whether the team will be able to compete in the Water Environment Federation’s student design event in New Orleans this fall or pick up their plaque at the BCWWA conference in Penticton, there’s one thing they know they’d like to do.

“We want to give our plaque to the Civil Department,” said Fanos. “It’ll be exciting to do that, and it’ll hopefully motivate students to participate in this competition in the future.”

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