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2022 NCEES awards ceremony (left to right): Jan Kucher, Andrew Baker, Kris Cotharn, Adam Wehking, and Mark Oleinik.
November 10, 2022

Senior Capstone Design Course for Civil Engineers Wins 6th NCEES Award

Written By: Amanda Thuss

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison proudly accepted their sixth Engineering Education Award from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) on November 10, 2022. The award honors the work of senior engineering students enrolled in CEE’s capstone design course and includes $10,000 prize to benefit the Department. The award-winning project provides redevelopment plans for San Damiano Park with a focus on historic preservation and ways to incorporate recreational uses for the community.

A closer look at CEE’s Capstone Design Course

Senior Capstone Design is a required course for all graduating students of civil and environmental engineering and the geological engineering program at UW-Madison. It brings together practicing engineers, educators, community clients, and students to create thoughtful solutions for real-world engineering challenges.

Senior capstone projects are first proposed by real-world clients that are open to supporting students in gaining work experience with the civil engineering process. The projects are often interdisciplinary and open-ended in nature and touch on a broad set of themes including general building design, transportation design, and environmental design. As students take on challenges through the process of creating and documenting designs for their capstone project, they are guided by a team of engineering faculty and practicing engineers.

In recognition of the valuable learning and professional development experiences that students gain through the course, other NCEES award-winning senior capstone projects include:

The 2022 NCEES award-winning team from UW-Madison (left to right): Andrew Baker, Adam Wehking, Mason Bartol, and Jacob Klenz.
The student team from left to right: Andrew Baker, Adam Wehking, Mason Bartol, and Jacob Klenz.

The redevelopment of San Damiano Park is the product of hard work by fall 2021 graduates Andrew Baker, Adam Wehking, Mason Bartol, and Jacob Klenz. Faculty guidance was provided by CEE adjunct professors Jan Kucher and Mark Oleinik as well as CEE professor Greg Harrington. Charlie Quagliana and the late Loei Badreddine served as professional engineering mentors for the project, and CEE alumnus Ken Koscik and GLE alumna Alyssa Sellwood served as team judges.

The story behind San Damiano

San Damiano sits on 10-acres along the southeast shore of Lake Monona. It was built as a residential home in the 1890s and later became utilized by several religious orders in the 20th and 21st centuries, before the City of Monona bought the land in 2021. The city has since been discussing possible plans for the property.

With a strong desire to transform the location into a community attraction and resource for all, the City of Monona issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to senior capstone design students at UW-Madison that outlined five primary project goals:

  • Maintain the historical characteristics of the site
  • Respect the unique, natural beauty of the forested lakeshore
  • Provide appropriate treatment of Native American burial grounds on the site
  • Generate revenue from the facility, while supporting the local economy
  • Provide additional recreational facilities for the community’s use of the lake
A Dutch Colonial-Revival manor home built in 1893-4 located on the new San Damiano Park property.
Built in 1893-4, this Dutch Colonial-Revival manor home will undergo renovations to provide the community with an event space, industrial kitchen, and two-story deck at the new San Damiano Park. Image Credit: Stephanies Vang

Creating plans to redevelop San Damiano

The students began by responding with a formal engineering proposal. Once approved, they worked collectively as a team to develop three alternative designs for the redevelopment of San Damiano Park. All three options include a new building close to the lakeshore for kayak and canoe rentals and storage, a refreshment stand, a first aid station, and restrooms. Additions to the current parking area, including several handicap spaces, are also featured in all alternatives.

A view of Lake Monona from the shoreline of San Damiano Park.
San Damiano Park provides the local community with a beautiful view of Lake Monona and nearly 1,500 feet of shoreline access. Image Credit: Stephanies Vang

The first alternative renovates the existing building to create a coffee shop and catering kitchen. The second renovation alternative includes a restaurant, event space, industrial kitchen, and two-story deck with a lake view. The third alternative demolishes the existing building and replaces it with an open pavilion.

The students presented their ideas, discussing the pros and cons of each design, to a panel of judges including engineers, architects, and members of the public. Three-dimensional modeling was used for virtual walk-throughs of each alternative. An evaluation matrix was used to quantify the merits of each alternative. Factors evaluated included the objectives in the RFP, the team’s opinion of probable cost, a present worth analysis, and an evaluation of the environmental impact. The team recommended the second alternative, which the city selected as well. This design maximizes the use and enjoyment of the area for the community, highlighting all that the waterfront and San Damiano Park have to offer.

With the second alternative design selected, students worked to finalize the design plans by working closely with faculty, mentors, and the City of Monona. Throughout the project, students were exposed to various open-ended problems which developed their research skills and ability to work with incomplete information to move the project forward.

Their finished work product includes a geotechnical report, verification of compliance with applicable codes, structural calculations, drawings, and specifications. The specifications included bid forms, terms and conditions, and sections for key project elements. A project construction schedule, final opinion of probable cost, and copies of the project manual were included with the presentation materials as well. This project highlighted the importance of teamwork to successfully complete the objective of bringing new enhancements to the community.

Tree-lined path through San Damiano Park
A narrow, tree-lined driveway currently provides access to San Damiano Park. Site access, along with parking, are two of several key considerations that students will address during the next phase of the project. Image Credit: Stephanies Vang

Looking ahead: what’s next at San Damiano Park

With the building redevelopment design complete, the project is moving on to the next phase, and senior students currently enrolled in Capstone Design for fall of 2022 are assisting. The focus of their work will be evaluating three options for development of the site to complement improvements and changes to the existing building that were designed by the award-winning team of students from fall 2021. Key considerations that the students are addressing include how to guide safe and efficient traffic access to the site; parking and driveway configuration; site amenities including lighting, signage, trail development, and more; onsite stormwater management; and the protection of indigenous burial sites located on the property.

“We are so proud of our students and capstone instruction team for their hard work and for this recognition. The capstone experience is a highlight of our curriculum and gives our students direct, hands-on experience working on real engineering projects,” shares CEE Department Chair Bill Likos. “It’s experiences like these that make Badger civil and environmental engineers the best in the field.”