Students engineer experience with water system project

From left is Dr. Carmine Balascio, a University of Delaware professor and member of the Delaware Association of Professional Engineers, with student Zaineb Chaudhry, Soheil Gharebaghi, an engineer for the Camden Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority and member of the association, and students Jonni Tran and Caleb Siebach. (Submitted photo)

From left is Dr. Carmine Balascio, a University of Delaware professor and member of the Delaware Association of Professional Engineers, with student Zaineb Chaudhry, Soheil Gharebaghi, an engineer for the Camden Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority and member of the association, and students Jonni Tran and Caleb Siebach. (Submitted photo)

CAMDEN — On their first day of spring break, a handful of high school students trudged outside to measure the elevation of a water tank.

The aspiring engineers are taking part in a $2 million water system expansion project with the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority.

The activity was part of “Laboratory for Learning,” which offers students hands-on experience in science, technology, engineering and math skills.

“Any opportunity to go see it in action is a good opportunity,” said Caleb Ciebach, who is studying engineering at Caesar Rodney High School.

For the two-year program, which kicked off this school year, students were invited to help build a 1-million-gallon tank and a production well.

Friday’s plan was to measure the elevation of the water tank on West Street in Camden; then students would walk more than a mile to the site of a planned million-gallon tank on Upper King Road to transfer the elevation and check the variance.

Each of the authority’s tanks need to stand at the same elevation, explained Peter Couming, who chairs the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority board.

“…because when the water goes in, it doesn’t get pumped up to the tank and stored. The pressure on the water as it comes out and into the system forces the water up,” he said.

When the pressure drops and the pressure builds up, Mr. Couming said, it needs to be equal in each tank.

Not only is it a necessary job, it reinforces skills students are learning in the classroom while they work with a level and surveyor’s rod.

“Surveying involves a lot of mathematics, trigonometry, geometry,” authority engineer Soheil Gharebaghi said.

“How far above sea level, for instance, is a datum?

“And we’re transferring that datum to find out at some other location a mile and a quarter away what the elevation there is above sea level.”

Dr. Carmine Balascio, a professor at University of Delaware, and Mr. Gharebaghi were the survey leaders.

The Camden Wyoming Sewer & Water Authority is working with the Delaware Association of Professional Engineers on the “Laboratory for Learning” program.

Since the school year began, participants have seen presentations from several members of the association, including an aerospace engineer, a geotechnical engineer and a traffic engineer.

Between 10 and 15 students attend the classes each month.

Most are from Caesar Rodney High School and one is from Dover High School, Mr. Couming said.

Through the talks, students said they were able to see the practical application of what they learn in school — how engineering looks in the real world.

“We learn ideas … now we get to see it in action,” student Jonni Tran said.

“Taking the materials to build something, the floor plans and everything. I actually want to know how it’s actually done and it’s really interesting.”

Now, as the water expansion project moves forward, students are able to experience more hands-on work.

“The whole plan was to involve them more in this project than we were able to, because things in real life move a lot slower than they do in the classroom,” Mr. Gharebaghi said.

The program will continue into 2016.

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