Dam Design for Marwe River

Civil engineering senior project aims to provide water

A group of civil engineering students traveled to Tanzania as part of a senior project focused on a dam construction feasibility study. The project was initiated by senior Constantine Moshi, an international student with a special connection to Tanzania – it’s the place he calls home.

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Students and faculty from MSOE and the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) gathered at the proposed project site where they conducted field research in December 2016.

“The long-term goal of the project is to provide water for non-potable uses,” Moshi said. The dam would serve a village east of Mount Kilimanjaro – population 10,000 – whose economy depends heavily on agriculture and irrigation.

Moshi was introduced to the concept of working with people of different cultures on engineering projects through his involvement with the MSOE Chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Seeing how students and communities benefited from these experiences, Moshi wanted to expand opportunities to Tanzania. He shared his idea with several faculty members and concluded the best approach was an independent service-based senior project.

“In 2015, I visited several villages and talked to the local leaders to understand their needs,” Moshi said. When he returned to Milwaukee, he submitted a servant-leadership proposal based on his findings. It was approved.

“We strive for a multi-disciplinary team in senior project, and the dam feasibility study had the right mix of needs between specializations in the civil engineering program – structural, construction management and water resources,” said Doug Nelson, coordinator of civil engineering senior projects.

A total of 10 MSOE students participated in the project; four of whom traveled to Tanzania in December 2016 to meet with their partners – 10 students from the University of Dar-Es-Salam – and collect data. They split into four teams.

“My primary responsibility for this trip was surveying the site that we selected,” said senior Sean Casey, structural engineering major. This was very important because it was the basis for all of the work that we would go on to do.”

In addition to surveying, student teams evaluated soil and rock; gathered rain and river gauge information; and researched local construction practices, including materials, costs, and cultural aspects that would be considerations in the final design. “I wanted to be a part of the travel team because I love experiencing new cultures, said senior Lauren Itzin. “I also find it very beneficial to visit the site to better understand the project you are working on. It helps you visualize what you are designing.”

Three faculty offered guidance on the trip: Dr. William Gonway (water resources), Dr. Jera Sullivan (construction management) and Dr. Todd Davis (structural engineering). They were joined on the trip by Civil and Architectural Engineering and Construction Management (CAECM) Department Chair Blake Wentz.

During the spring semester, MSOE students split into two design teams of four students, with two student-consultants who worked with both teams.  The teams independently developed three dam alternatives chosen from the winter quarter. Throughout the process MSOE teams were in regular communication with USDM students, who conducted the labs and soil tests. The preliminary design on viable dam options – a total of six – were assembled into a feasibility study. “It’s not to the point where it can be built tomorrow,” Casey said, “But I think it will give the local community enough information to make a decisions if there is something they want to pursue further.”

The project also opened a dialogue about future partnerships between MSOE and UDSM, including the possibility of student/faculty exchanges. “My goal is to encourage and motivate young professionals – especially in developing countries where continuous education and professional growth is not emphasized like it is in the U.S.”

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