This year in CEVE 101 we decided to broaden our students’ career path "horizons" with a class excursion to the Houston Zoo. We were grateful for the Zoo’s Director of Design and Engineering, Mark Hoffman '11, PE, ENV SP, for giving us a self-guided tour of the Zoo facilities. Mark explained the engineering challenges and rewards that come with engineering planning and design in a zoo environment.
Mark — a structural engineer by training and practice — was able to highlight the unique design considerations with gorilla enclosures, stating gorillas have the ability to unscrew machine-tightened bolts. Circumventing such a challenge requires an unconventional form of engineering problem solving.
He also showed the class an on-site concrete sculpting process in mid-construction for building artificial trees and branches for bird enclosures at the Zoo.
That experience was truly a real-world testament for the students on how science and art become infused to form something truly original — a habitat safe for birds, visually realistic to zoo visitors; all without compromising structural integrity. It’s imagination at its finest.
Throughout this semester, we have seized opportunities to think “outside the box” with course projects on the theme of Smart Cities, career advice from industry experts, and panel discussions from graduate students, top scientists, and faculty members in our very own department.
I couldn’t think of a better culmination of events with this year’s CEVE 101 class than with a trip to the Houston Zoo and experience it through lens of a professionally licensed engineer. The career paths that a degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering have to offer our students never cease to amaze me.
Jacob M. Torres, Ph.D. '16, managing partner and principal at Torres & Associates, is the lecturer of CEVE 101, Fundamentals of Civil & Environmental Engineering.