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3-D Visualization In Environmental Engineering Design Courses: If The Design Fits, Print It!

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division: Sustainability and Hands-On Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Michael A. Butkus U.S. Military Academy

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Michael A. Butkus is a professor of environmental engineering at the U.S. Military Academy. His work has been focused on engineering education and advancements in the field of environmental engineering. His current research interests are in physicochemical treatment processes with recent applications in drinking water disinfection, lead remediation, sustainable environmental engineering systems, and contaminant transport. Butkus is a Board Certified Environmental Engineer and he is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Connecticut.

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Jeffrey A. Starke U.S. Military Academy

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LTC Jeff Starke is a Military Intelligence officer with command and staff experiences at the battalion, brigade, and joint task force levels. His most recent experiences include operational intelligence assignments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. Academically, LTC Starke specializes in environmental engineering with research and teaching interests in drinking water, public health, and microbial-mediated renewable energy resources. LTC Starke teaches senior-level design courses in Physical and Chemical Processes, Biological Treatment Processes, Solid and Hazardous Waste Technologies, and Environmental Engineering Seminar. LTC Starke has published over 10 peer reviewed research articles and has presented his research at national and international meetings (most recently Portugal). Most recently, he led a service learning project with 5 students to build a latrine-based biogas system in western Uganda for an elementary school of 1400 students. LTC Starke is a registered Professional Engineer (Delaware), member of several professional associations, and is a member of the National Council of Examiners for Engineers and Surveyors (NCEES).

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Phil Dacunto P.E. U.S. Military Academy

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LTC Phil Dacunto is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. He earned a Ph.D. in the field of environmental engineering at Stanford University in 2013.

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Kimberly Quell

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Engineering design is generally considered an iterative, open ended, activity that attempts to satisfy the customer’s objectives and does not violate any specified constraints. ABET Criterion 5 includes the following statement: “Students must be prepared for engineering practice through a curriculum culminating in a major design experience based on the knowledge and skills acquired in earlier course work and incorporating appropriate engineering standards and multiple realistic constraints.” Consequently, most undergraduate ABET accredited environmental engineering programs have design experiences embedded in a number of courses, and typically have a course that includes a major design experience. Designs are created to perform a specified function and they often result in objects that have a specified form, created by the designer. Environmental engineering examples range from a small orifice that inducts air into a water stream to a large anaerobic digester with most designs being large scale. Years of assessment in our one semester capstone design course revealed that many students preferred to design large scale treatment works, but they also wanted to create a hands-on visual aid, model, or prototype of their design. Due to lack of time and resources, this was often infeasible and resulted in dissatisfaction among some students. This shortcoming was largely addressed by incorporation of 3D printing into our capstone design course. Although 3D printing is common in many engineering disciplines and even grammar schools, the scale and nature of environmental engineering processes may be limiting the integration of 3D printing in environmental engineering. This paper describes how engineering graphics software and 3D printing have been used by students to create 3D visual aids or scale models of large engineering treatment works including sedimentation basins, anaerobic digesters, and in-vessel composters. Assessment data is used to demonstrate the value of this approach. Limitations of our current engineering graphics software package will be addressed along with how we plan to address them. Finally, a method for scaling models, to ensure dimensions will be sufficient to prevent breakage, will also be discussed.

Butkus, M. A., & Starke, J. A., & Dacunto, P., & Quell, K. (2016, June), 3-D Visualization In Environmental Engineering Design Courses: If The Design Fits, Print It! Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26245

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