INSIDE P.2 P.5 P.7 - Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

INSIDE P.2 P.5 P.7 - Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Note from the


Dear CE & ENVE alumni

and friends:

I am excited to share with

you news about our student

and faculty activities for the

year in this edition of our

newsletter. Our department

continues to be ranked

among the

top five in

the nation





by the US News & World

Report. Our student chapter

of the American Society of

Civil Engineers won the

prestigious Robert Ridgway

Award for the second year

in a row and both of our

Concrete Canoe and Steel

Bridge teams qualified for

participation in the national


Our faculty continues

to pursue cutting edge

technologies in Civil and

Environmental Engineering

and brings it into the

classroom. I look forward

to hearing from you about

your accomplishments as



Rakesh Goel

Chair and Professor


Civil and Environmental Engineering Department • Cal Poly College of Engineering • Spring 2010

Concrete results

Cal Poly Society of Civil Engineers wins

national award for most outstanding chapter

The Concrete Canoe Team helped the Cal Poly chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers win the Robert Ridgway Award.

For the second year in a row,

the American Society of Civil

Engineers (ASCE) deemed Cal Poly

the winner of the prestigious ASCE

Robert Ridgway Award, given to

the most outstanding chapter out of

the 280 student groups across the


“It’s a rare feat to win this award

two years running,” said Dr. Gregg

Fiegel, Cal Poly Society of Civil

Engineers (SCE) faculty adviser.

“Over the past 20 years, Cal Poly

has received the Ridgway four times

— it essentially represents a collegiate

national championship in civil

engineering, and requires tremendous

energy, enthusiasm, hard work,

and leadership by all of the student

chapter members.

Other ASCE national awards

given to Cal Poly include individual

student leadership awards, outstanding

faculty advisor award, and

recognition for community service.

Cal Poly civil engineering seniors

Roshani Patel and Kyle Marshall

received leadership awards for

work as the club’s vice president

for Community Service, and project

manager for the Concrete Canoe

team, respectively. Fiegel was recognized

as Outstanding Faculty Adviser

in ASCE Region 9. The ASCE

letter of recognition for community

service was based on activities

organized by the Cal Poly student

chapter, which include “Building

Please see AWARD on Page 2

INSIDE P.2 P.5 P.7

AWARD from Page 1

Big,” an outreach program for local

middle and high schools, and

the popular annual Popsicle Stick

Bridge Contest, which allows

local students to compete at Cal

Poly’s Open House.

The ASCE Ridgway adds to

SCE’s award tally for the year.

This month, the group also won

overall champion at the ASCE

Pacific Southwest Regional

Conference in Las Vegas, where

they won numerous events,

including Concrete Canoe and

Steel Bridge. The bridge and

canoe teams are heading toward

national competitions later this

year — Cal Poly is hosting the

National Concrete Canoe Competition

on campus and at Lopez

Lake on June 17-19.

“There have been so many

accomplishments this year, yet

we are far from finished,” noted

Fiegel. “Hosting the National

Concrete Canoe event here at

Cal Poly is a great honor, and the

students are excited about the opportunity

to put on a good show.”

Concrete Canoe

team wins regionals

and will host 2010

ASCE nationals

Cal Poly’s award-winning

Concrete Canoe Team has

two goals this year: go for the

gold, and host the best possible

2010 American Society of Civil Engineers’

(ASCE) Annual National

Concrete Canoe Competition, June

17-19 in San Luis Obispo.

Project manager Kyle Marshall

sees “an exceptionally bright”

season for the team, which hopes

to snag first place while hosting

the annual competition at Cal

Poly this spring.

The canoe team is part of

the Cal Poly Society of Civil

Engineers advised by Dr. Gregg

Fiegel. During last year’s Nationals

in Tuscaloosa, Cal Poly came

in third place overall with their

canoe “Vintage,” which won

top honors in the Final Product

category and earned first place in


CE/ENVE students Austin Prince, Mike

Hopkins, Daniel Lister and Jon Macmillan

comprise Cal Poly’s 2010 Steel Bridge Team.

(Not shown: Howard Reiss)

the Co-ed Sprint Races.

The three-day contest challenges

students to construct a

concrete-mix canoe-typically

weighing over 200 pounds-which

is both sea-worthy and built for

speed. Marshall, in his second

year as project manager, considers

this year’s local setting as a

“great opportunity for the Cal Poly

team and the university as a whole.

Cal Poly is currently the only team

in the nation over the last four

years to have consecutively placed

among the top five winners.”

In addition to focusing on the

upcoming race, the team is well

aware of the award-winning

legacy of the Cal Poly Society

of Civil Engineers. In 2009, the

group won the prestigious Robert

Ridgway Award, bestowed by

the national organization on the

undergraduate student chapter

deemed best in the nation.

“These honors reflect Cal Poly’s

exceptional educational pillars

as well as the students’ will and

passion to excel, affirming Cal

Poly’s reputation as ‘Best in the

West,’” said Marshall.

Marshall also notes that organizing

a national competition

in which hundreds of university

students from around the country

participate requires a collabora-

Cal Poly’s Concrete Canoe Team won the ASCE regional competition.

tive effort: “As a student chapter

undertaking this vast conference,

we are very lucky to have the

depth of support of students, fac-

ulty and sponsors. Few chapters

around the nation have the ability

to do what Cal Poly does year in

and year out.”

Cal Poly’s Global Waste

Research Institute secures

partners abroad and

progress at home

GWRI promotes development of sustainable

waste treatment technologies and practices

Established just last year,

Cal Poly’s Global Waste

Research Institute has already

made strides in promoting the

development of sustainable

waste treatment technologies and

advancing current practices in

waste management.

GWRI interim director Dr.

Nazli Yesiller along with civil

and environmental engineering

professor Jim Hanson have

been intimately involved with

the development of the GWRI

as an epicenter in pushing waste

management and treatment

technologies, and bringing together

researchers, practitioners,

and companies from across the

world to collaborate on projects

that will “transform waste into

opportunities,” according to the

GWRI motto.

Among other activities, Yesiller

and Hanson recently returned

from a trip to Japan, where

they met with industry experts

interested in partnering with Cal

Poly. Yesiller, an internationally

known geo-environmental

research scholar, said the trip

was part of continuing efforts

to encourage sustainability and

waste management collaboration

between Japan and the U.S.

Japan is a prime location in

which to start looking for partners,

Hanson explains, because

“Japan is, to some degree, leading

the world in geo-environmental

technology. We’d like to learn

from them” and share American

innovation as well.

The GWRI team has found that

fostering international research

collaboration with Japan also

requires overcoming cultural

barriers. Hanson explains, for in-

Civil Engineering design

course wins national award

Cal Poly’s Civil Engineering

Senior Design

course recently won a

$7,500 Engineering Award

from the National Council

of Examiners for Engineering

and Surveying (NCEES)

in recognition of its extensive

collaboration with

professional engineers.

A jury of NCEES members

and representatives from

academic institutions and

professional engineering organizations

made the award


Initiated in 2006, the

course enlists up to 30 local

engineering practitioners to

serve as mentors and advisors.

Dr. Gregg Fiegel facilitated

the development of the

curriculum in conjunction

with numerous faculty members

and practicing professionals.

“The scale of our course is

unlike any other in the country,

with student enrollments

typically ranging between

150 and 175,” noted Fiegel.

“Practitioners help with the

course by evaluating student

projects and presentations,

advising on design project

issues, teaching technical

subjects related to the design

projects, and lecturing on

professional topics such as

communication, ethics, leadership,

and team work.”

In accepting the award,

Fiegel credited faculty members

who helped develop

Cal Poly professor Jim Hanson and GWRI interim director Nazli Yesiller examine

solid waste at the Cold Canyon Landfill in San Luis Obispo.

stance, that there is “surprisingly

little technology communication

between the two countries,” so

narrowing that gap and increasing

bilingual document translation

is vital.

Meanwhile, GWRI activities

on campus include progress on

forming a technical board and

advisory board for the institute,

while culling academic and

industry contacts. The technical

board will focus on research

efforts and educational activities,

while the advisory board will

help provide management oversight

and offer practical perspectives

to the director.

In addition to finalizing the

operational nuts and bolts of the

GWRI, Hanson and Yesiller are

also pinpointing specific research

topics. Hanson would like to see

the institute become an “international

leader in topics related

to management of waste and

by-products,” and to consistently

be at the forefront of reuse issues,

through multidisciplinary


Patrick J. Tami, a member of the Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors for California,

presents the NCEES award to Dr. Gregg Fiegel, prime architect of the capstone class.

and teach the class, in particular, Dr.

Jay DeNatale. “His past engineering

experience, excellent teaching skills,

and established relationships with

local practitioners helped make the

course what it is today: a nationally

recognized model for civil engineering

capstone design.”

| 3

Got waste? Cal Poly team studies dairy waste management

Environmental Engineering students Seppi Henneman and Jason Kane

check water bacteria levels at the ReCip ® pilot wastewater treatment plant

at the Cal Poly Dairy.

With 1.8 million dairy cows in California, efficient recycling of manure

nutrients back to cropland can be difficult to achieve. Professor Tryg

Lundquist is addressing the problem by leading a research program on dairy

waste management that includes treatment, recycling, and biogas power

generation. The group constructed a ReCip ® pilot plant at the Cal Poly dairy

designed to remove excess nutrients. The project was funded by the US EPA

via the NGO Sustainable Conservation and the CSU Agricultural Research



Professor Tryg Lundquist, top, is leading a group studying dairy waste

management on campus. Pictured near the ReCip ® wastewater plant,

the group includes, front row from left: Kyle Fooks (ENVE), Shasta Billings

(ENVE), Giulia Samori (visiting researcher from Italy) and research

engineer Ian Woertz; back row: Seppi Henneman (ENVE), Jason Kane

(ENVE), Jason Coontz (ENVE) and Lundquist. At left, Kane checks out

some of the piping at the ReCip ® plant.

Natural disasters prompt Cal Poly Engineering projects

Polytech Waterbags and Earth Block building materials could play important role in relief efforts

On January 12, 2010, a tremendous

earthquake shook

the small country of Haiti. The

aftereffects of this 7.0 seismicity

earthquake persist long after

the tremors die. Relief efforts

in Haiti must deal with waterborne

illness, lack of food, lack of

shelter, and the inconceivable fear

that permeated a nation reduced

to rubble. Crises like these are the

inspiration for Cal Poly Engineering

students as they search for

ways to better the world through

hands-on projects. Two such

projects are the Polytech Waterbag

project and the Earth Block

building materials project.

Maggie Herzog is the head of

this year’s Polytech Waterbag

project. The impetus behind the

waterbag is the death and illness

Many Cal Poly Engineering

grads find that the hands-on

projects they worked on as undergraduates

and seniors help land

them their first professional jobs.

Tricia Compas’s senior project,

however, is her career.

With a team of students and an

advisory panel of professors and

business professionals, and under

the guidance of faculty advisor

Dr. Tryg Lundquist, the 2009

grad helped create the Polytech

Waterbag, a revolutionary water

treatment system for disaster relief

zones. Compas dedicated over

2000 hours to the civil and environmental

engineering master’s

thesis project.

It was time well-spent, having

earned Compas the Outstanding

Commitment Award from the

Clinton Global Initiative University

in 2008, and a seat on a plenary

panel at this year’s Clinton Global

Initiative-University meeting held

in Miami this April.

that lingers long after a

natural disaster due to

a lack of clean, potable

water. This issue lies in a

failure to develop reasonable

technology that can

clean water efficiently

and still be cost-effective.

This is the problem that

Herzog and her team of

six students attack with

their waterbag system.

The product, patented in

2009, uses a combination of

Proctor & Gamble PUR chemical

treatments and a unique filtration

system to produce enough clean

water to last a family of four for

ten days. This waterbag can be

filled in as little as 3” of water,

and stores the water in a portable

and compact method. Recently,

CE/ENVE alumna keeps

her senior project going

Tricia Compas forms company to produce

Polytech Waterbags for disaster relief

But Compas is not ready to put

the waterbag aside, especially in

light of the worldwide need for

clean drinking water in disaster

zones, such as the recent earthquakes

in Haiti and Chile. So, she

founded DayOne Response Inc.,

a company that will produce and

continue to develop the 10-liter

water bag.

“With tens of millions of people

affected by floods and other waterrelated

disasters each year, there is

a huge potential for the device to

save lives,” Compas said. Compas

envisions that the water bag will

be able to assist 500,000 families

in the near future.

DayOne Response is working to

improve the product design so it

can be deployed by relief organizations

at a faster rate. Lundquist

notes that the American Red

Cross, Centers for Disease Control

and the U.S. Navy are interested

in the device. With the introduction

of a PUR Purifier, a chemical

The filtration system on the Polytech Waterbag can

purify water in natural disasters.

team member Tricia Compas

brought the waterbag to Nicaragua

where she tested its usability

on a group of people who did not

speak English and therefore had

to interpret the pictograph instructions

provided on the waterbag.

The trip was a definite success.

treatment packet within the water

bag, the product will meet World

Health and U.S. EPA standards.

The waterbag team benefits

from a diversity of majors

involved ranging from Environmental

Engineering to Psychology.

Currently, the students are

working on several improvements

to the waterbag project: incorporating

sustainable materials into

the product design, performing

a waste analysis for the use of

the bag, looking at international

regulations related to disaster

relief, creating a new set of pictographic

instructions, and collecting

data on current disaster relief

operations. Cal Poly Engineering

students are helping to save lives

through their dedication to the

development of new technologies.

It is with efforts like these that we

can provide relief for nations.

Tricia Compas has developed a company to produce Polytech Waterbags.

For details on the Polytech

Waterbags, contact tlundqui@ or 805-756-7275. | 5

Assessing the risk,

researching the fix

Robb Moss studies critical California levees

The 1,100-mile levee system

in the Sacramento-San

Joaquin Delta delivers fresh

water to 23 million California

residents while also protecting

farmland and wildlife habitat.

That could change in an instant

if an earthquake hits.

By conservative estimates, a

nominal earthquake could lead

to the failure of five to twenty

levees, causing salt water intrusion

that could shut down the

California Aqueduct.

Dr. Robb Moss and a team

of students are researching the

likelihood of widespread Delta

levee failures and breaches under

grants from the National Science

Foundation and the U.S. Department

of Homeland Security.

Moss explains that the problems

with the levee system date

back to the mid-19th century,

when farmers rushed to reclaim

the rich peaty Delta soil by

throwing up levees that consisted

of uncompacted sands, clays,

and organics. The reclamation

of Delta lands from historical

seasonal flooding and tidal influx

continued for the next century.

Dr. Rob Moss, above, flew

with the Chilean Air Force to

document the locations of earthquake



The Federal government and the

State contributed to the levee

system with passage of the Central

Valley Project in 1933 and

the State Water Project in 1960,

levee and aqueduct projects enacted

to deliver water to Central

and Southern California.

“The oldest levees are really

just glorified mounds of dirt,”

says Moss. “We don’t know how

these ‘bad soil’ structures will

behave in an earthquake—in

fact, we’ve even seen devastation

from a ‘sunny day’ failure.

In June 2004, levees failed in the

Jones Tract for no discernable

reason, although some put the

blame on gophers. The event was

a $100 million disaster. Until we

have some hard data, we don’t

know how to fix the system.”

Five undergraduates and a

graduate student under Moss’s

direction hope to provide that

data by undertaking a comprehensive

seismic risk analysis that

includes evaluation of the seismic

stability of the peaty organic

levee foundation soil through

numerical modeling, lab testing,

and field testing. “We’re literally

There are 1,100 miles of levees in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

building a levee and shaking it,”

explains Moss.

In addition to safeguarding the

lives and welfare of California’s

citizens and wildlife, Moss’s

work greatly enhances the education

of his students.

“I use a lot of our research in

my classes, and the students on

my team learn project management

and become highly trained

in advanced lab testing for soils,”

he notes.

Chilean earthquake up close

Dr. Rob Moss recently returned from Chile where he was working as the

lead of the liquefaction section of the advance team for the Geo-Engineering

Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association’s assessment of the Chilean

earthquake. Working with two Chilean professors, Moss flew several aerial

reconnaissance flights over an area of central Chile 600 kilometers long by

150 kilometers wide affected by the earthquake.

“This was a major event that will have big repercussions on how we

deal with earthquakes and tsunamis in California,” Moss said. “Chile is a

well-developed country with similar seismic codes as California and this is a

template for how the state will perform in the next big event. ”

All photos: GEER (

Collapsed bridges, buildings and hillsides were visible from the air.

“I’ve also found that my undergraduate

researchers move on

to graduate studies and careers

in hazard-related engineering.

One of my personal goals, is that

projects like this teach students

that engineers can’t be silent in

the social/political context—we

need to find ways to communicate

to the public, and to policy

makers and planners how hazards

will affect society in real terms of

money and lives lost.”

“What a Journey!”

Dr. Hal Cota retires after four

decades of achievement at Cal Poly

On March 19, 2010, family, friends

and colleagues gathered to celebrate

Dr. Hal Cota’s more than four decades of

achievement as an inspirational educator

at Cal Poly. His legacy includes a Civil &

Environmental Engineering program that

is one of the largest and most prestigious in

the nation.

There was no CE/ENVE when Dr. Cota

joined Cal Poly in 1966. He became a

faculty member in Air Conditioning and

Refrigeration, but was immediately instrumental

in developing a new program vital

to public health: air pollution control.

“The Environmental Engineering

program started with the idea of expanding

the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration

Engineering Department into a department

that dealt with the outdoor environment as

well. I was fortunate to be hired to develop

the program,” Cota remembers.

Cota notes that his work in developing

the new major was supported by industry,

faculty member Jim McGrath, and the ACR

faculty and alumni. In 1968, the department’s

name was changed to Environmental

Engineering, one of the very first undergraduate

ENVE programs in the United

States. Within a short time, ENVE also

encompassed specializations in wastewater

management and hazardous waste management.

The current Civil and Environmental

Engineering Department was established in


Over the last four decades, Cota has

been a witness to Cal Poly history. In 1966,

the university had a much smaller student

body and faculty. “Faculty were expected

to be on campus five days a week and on

Saturdays to work with students on senior

projects and improve laboratories,” he

mused. Students were expected to take

a daunting load of 210 units, “and often

more.” “It turned out that in Environmental

Engineering, students left Cal Poly with the

same academic background as a master degree

student at other universities, plus they

had a practical bent,” Cota said.

“The faculty knew the students by their

first name, and, like today, made an effort to

see they were successful; and faculty members

were encouraged to become registered

engineers, interact with industry, be active

in professional organizations and pursue

professional development.”

Cota also noted that, as Cal Poly began

to be viewed as a center of applied research,

industry helped finance laboratory development

and faculty development. Between

1966 and 2010, Cal Poly changed for the

better, from Cota’s perspective. He points

to improved equipment funding and the

ability of the faculty to gain research funding,

which ”provides great opportunity for

students as well.”

He also believes that the increased

number of graduate programs helps foster

opportunities and mentor relationships

through skills gained on the job and in the


Cota recognizes that with the growth

of the university over the last 40 years,

many of the same outstanding features

of the university are still present, including

“an outstanding faculty, a willingness

of departments to help faculty from other

departments and support interdisciplinary

programs, sharing expertise and equipment

and resources.”

Cota is clearly proud of the university

and its students, who have been a part of his

life for so long. Some of his favorite memories

include working with a great faculty,

seeing students win the Best Student Chapter

of Air & Waste Management Association

for five consecutive years over the past

Hal Cota, right, works with a CE/ENVE student sometime in the 1960s.

decade, and working with the Air Resources

Board and Regional Water Quality Control

Board. “I am grateful for the opportunity to

develop one of a few teaching air pollution

monitoring laboratories, and to work with

alumni and see the significant contributions

they have made,” he states.

When asked about the future, Cota

explained, “Since I believe it is important

for the nation to keep an industrial base, it

will require good environmental engineers

to protect the public health and keep costs

down. What an opportunity! Unresolved

problems include establishing safe environmental

exposure levels, disposing of

nuclear and mixed wastes, developing the

best alternative energy plan and deciding

how to include nuclear power and maybe

breeder reactors as part of dealing with

climate change.”

Cota congratulates CE/ENVE students

on the “decision to help solve our country’s

environmental problems.” “We have not

solved all the environmental challenges and

there are new challenges on the horizon,”

he noted in a talk given in 2009. “Our mission

at Cal Poly continues to be to insure

graduates are ready to make informed

decisions that will improve the environment

and lead to better health both in industry

and in our communities and lead to a strong


Cota received his bachelor’s degree in

Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley;

he holds a master’s degree from Northwestern

and a Ph.D. from the University

of Oklahoma, both in Chemical Engineering.

His research interests over the years

have included fuel cells, thermodynamics,

chemical kinetics, computer modeling of air

pollution control systems and noise control,

production of training tools for technology

transfer and dispersion modeling. | 7

California Polytechnic State University

College of Engineering

San Luis Obispo, CA 93407-0350


Civil/Environmental Engineering Dept.

Rakesh Goel, Chair


You read it here:

The Cal Poly Society of Civil Engineers is first in the nation

– again.

In a rare feat, SCE was recognized as the nation’s most outstanding

student chapter by winning the ASCE Robert Ridgway

Award for the second year in a row.

Celebrate this achievement by making a gift now to the Civil &

Environmental Engineering Department.

Your gift will support the department and help provide funds to

build student projects, such as SCE’s Concrete Canoe and Steel

Bridge, both regional winners this year. Donations also enable

us to send our award-winning students to their competitions and

conferences around the county.

Our students give us Cal Poly pride – your gift can help them

win the next competition while enriching their “Learn By Doing”


To make a gift by mail:

California Polytechnic State University

Civil and Environmental Engineering Department

1 Grand Avenue

Building 13, Room 263

San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

Or to make a gift online:



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