Collaboration of UGA Archway Partnership and College of Engineering beneficial for students and communities

November 21, 2016

By Sara Hand

The University of Georgia’s Archway Partnership and College of Engineering have partnered to provide engineering students with hands-on learning experiences designed to help them apply their technical skills to real world situations. Through community-based projects across Georgia, undergraduate students connect with civic leaders, community members and government agencies to address locally-identified engineering projects.

Engineering faculty Dr. Jason Christian (Environmental) and Dr. Stephan Durham (Civil) are leading the effort with the Archway Partnership in the hopes of connecting community needs to the senior capstone course curriculum. The collaboration between the college and the Archway Partnership is focused on establishing a lasting connecting between Engineering students and Archway Partnership communities.

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Dr. Stephan Durham directs Engineering students on a site visit for improvements to the Grady County Greenway Trail.

Since 2014, Professors Christian and Durham have supervised 38 students in the completion of 13 Archway Partnership projects. For the 2016-2017 academic year, 10 projects from five Archway Partnership communities have been selected by 30 students who will focus solely on their respective project for the next two semesters until graduation in May. Projects range in scope from designing culverts for flood remediation to designing land-use plans for specific parcels of land within a community, among others. Locally students will have the opportunity to work with a range of community partners including city and county officials, public works staff, community planners and others.

Dr. Durham, who serves as the Assistant Dean for Student Success and Outreach and Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, describes the collaboration: “We are fortunate to have this relationship with the Archway Partnership.  The real-world projects and community interactions they provide for our engineering students are invaluable to their professional development.  The student-community design experience is unique compared to other engineering programs.”

Not only does the collaboration result in positive learning outcomes for students, communities also benefit from the students’ technical knowledge. In May 2016, a team of students presented an analysis of the structural integrity of the Heritage Industrial Complex owned by the Cairo Grady County Joint Development Authority. The students prepared conceptual plans for the 330,000 square foot facility and shared an exterior mock-up of suggested improvements to selected building sections.

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Engineering students confer with Cairo-Grady County JDA Director Chadd Mathis on site plans Grady County’s Milestone Industrial Park Building.

Chadd Mathis, Executive Director of the Cairo Grady JDA, praised the students’ efforts, “It was a pleasure working with the UGA College of Engineering students on our midtown community industrial business incubator.  This senior design course project coupled with a cost-benefit analysis will provide renovation recommendations for the Grady County Joint Development Authority and help them make an informed investment decision regarding the property.”

Grady County Archway Professional Betsy McGriff echoed Mathis’ admiration of the students’ work, commenting, “They are highly motivated and organized and are able to really think outside the box when crafting solutions for our community partners.  The work they produce is professional-grade and assists the client with key decision making.” She describes their efforts as “invaluable to our rural communities who may need real answers to complex issues, but also lack funding for the types of studies able to be provided through the partnership.”

Through this exciting relationship, the Archway Partnership and College of Engineering are working together to fulfill UGA’s land-grant mission as they extend the University’s knowledge and expertise directly to Georgia communities facing significant issues related to economic and community development.

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