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Rain, rain, go this way: Jacksonville University students’ stormwater projects pass test

By Kevin Hogencamp/Jacksonville University

If the 18 students in Jacksonville University professor Brian Lane’s freshman engineering orientation class didn’t previously grasp the notion of stormwater runoff, they do now.

The class divided into groups and spent several weeks this fall planning and building models of four existing JU buildings, paying particular attention to how the roofs should be designed so that rainwater is properly channeled.

The project culminated outside Lane’s Nelms Science Building classroom on Oct. 16 when Lane used a garden hose and mister to test the designs.

The result: Lane’s charges nailed the assignment, as the water on each of the roofs largely was directed just as the students intended.

“We mainly had to make sure that when the water drained, it stayed away from the walkways,” said freshman Daniel Stone, 18, of St. Augustine, whose team was tasked with redesigning the Nelms building roof.

Here’s a video clip from the class:


The mission wasn’t particularly difficult for Stone because he already has designed a house and a barn in real life.

Indeed, with many of the students in the class already aspiring to be biologists, physicists and nuclear engineers, there wasn’t a tremendous learning curve at stake for many of them.

But it was still a valuable and fun teambuilding exercise, as evidenced by the students’ camaraderie and enthusiasm during the project’s grand finale.

“It was cool to see the water run off like we planned,” Stone said. “I’m into building stuff, so it was right up my alley.”

Jared Mallard, an 18-year-old freshman physics student from Atlanta, said the biggest challenges for his team’s redesign of the large Founders Building roof were waterproofing it and extending the gutters so that people entering and exiting the walkway wouldn’t be soaked with rain. They accomplished their task with balsa wood, Popsicle sticks and hot glue.

“We angled the roof to redirect the water,” Mallard said.

Lane, an assistant professor of physics who is serving as JU’s interim director of engineering, said the idea for the experiment came from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency comprehensive stormwater management contest for college students. He said a project highlight was seeing the students collaborate on the Nelms building design.

“The building is in two halves and there were different groups working on each half,” Lane said. “After working about an hour, they realized the buildings had to connect, and once they figured that out, they went to work and with their great work on measurements and design, the two halves fit together perfectly.”

The EPA contest invites student teams to create an innovative green infrastructure design for a site on their campus showing how managing stormwater at its source can benefit the campus community and the environment.

Lane says he hopes that many of the students will take their experiments to the next level and participate in the EPA contest. There are incentives, in addition to being assured a good grade: A cash prize for the winning teams, as well as research funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure.