Civil Engineering, Creatively

Class project asks students to be industry spokespeople

Two years ago, Marika Santagata, an associate professor of civil engineering, wanted to know what civil engineering looked like to her students in "CE 290." Consisting of mostly sophomores just beginning their own paths through the program, the class is designed to get students to consider the various special academic areas of study, career options in the field, and how to make the most of their days on campus.

Working in three-to-four-person teams, the students tapped into the "right sides of their brains" to come up with posters to reflect their visions of the field.

A panel of students, faculty, and staff judged the 14 posters. They awarded "Best Artistic Rendition" and "Best Concept" (see posters below).

"These are big classes and a lot of the students didn’t know each other," Santagata says. "I wanted to get them both working in teams and thinking creatively."

Katelyn Zollos, now a civil engineering senior planning to graduate next December, collaborated with classmates Cole Pavlina and Kyle Iton on the "Best Concept" winner. "We each had a completely different idea about what civil engineering was about," Zollos says. "One of the guys wanted a bridge on the poster, another wanted a neighborhood to symbolize urban planning, and I wanted to incorporate environmental and water resources."

Realizing that range of topics, the trio incorporated all three into their poster design. They used an Albert Einstein quote to make it feel like an "inspirational poster," says Zollos who may apply her environmental and hydraulics skills abroad after graduation.

Santagata, who was pleasantly surprised with the various student posters, took the assignment a step further in the 2008 spring semester. She asked the student teams to develop short public service announcements (around 30 seconds) that would educate the general public about the field of civil engineering. The teams had the option of using video equipment, or photographs in a PowerPoint, most of which were set to music. The winner, entitled "Life Without …," which can be found on YouTube (, took a humorous look at a world without civil engineering.

The assignment for this semester’s creative activity is yet to be decided, but Santagata promises not to force the students into the interpretive dances that her husband says must surely be forthcoming.