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The Challenges To A Student Team Undertaking A Complex Project

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1129.1 - 7.1129.7



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Paper Authors

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Richard K Sase

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Julie Wei

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Session 2793

The Challenges to an Undergraduate Student Team Undertaking A Complex Project

Julie H. Wei and Richard K. Sase California State Polytechnic University, Pomona/ Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster


Cal Poly Pomona’s Civil Engineering Department offers a capstone course that allows students the opportunity to work in a group on a comprehensive project that will ready them for a career in Civil Engineering. The project discussed in this paper was to evaluate the sediment removal plan in San Gabriel Canyon Reservoirs by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works (LACDPW), and to recommend alternatives. The sluicing operation requires draining the reservoir and flushing out the sediment at the bottom of the reservoir. During the sluicing operation, the reservoir was not available for flood control. Further, the sediment buildup had created adverse impacts on the downstream river environment and the groundwater recharge operation. The Main San Gabriel Basin Watermaster, the project sponsor and one of several agencies interested in the success of groundwater recharge, was interested in seeking an alternative solution to sluicing. The project complexity was not limited to technical difficulties. In the process of doing this project, the students learned how to manage a project from inception to completion, work as a team, perform independent research, design experiments, analyze data, draw conclusions, write a seamless joint report, and present the findings to diverse audiences. There were numerous challenges along the way. The students experienced periods of: optimism when they first started; frustration as they realized how complex it was; enthusiasm when they had a handle on the issues and focused on a specific approach; elation when they finished data analysis and were able to draw a conclusion and make a recommendation; again frustration during report writing; satisfaction and relief when the report was completed; and finally gratification when they presented their results at public meetings. Throughout these periods of vicissitudes, the faculty advisor and an industry sponsor were with the students constantly to provide encouragement and directions. The students learned that one could not always expect textbook cases in the real world. They not only had to know all the fundamentals they learned at school, but also had to be able to figure out how to apply this knowledge in real cases that might not be as ideal or clearly defined as in a textbook. They also had to be able to learn new things, in this case sediment transport and sediment dredging, on their own. The hydraulics of sediment transport is very different from that of water. With this experience, the students were well prepared to take on any complex project and tasks that they may encounter upon graduation on a job or at graduate school.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Sase, R. K., & Wei, J. (2002, June), The Challenges To A Student Team Undertaking A Complex Project Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11266

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