College supports high school students in Zoo Train Challenge

Faculty and staff from the College of Engineering & Applied Science are part of a community collaboration that is helping local high school students gain real-world engineering experience as they design a new water tower for the Milwaukee County Zoo.

On May 2, UWM hosted the final round of the Zoo Train Water Tower Design Challenge—a project-based STEM challenge—that brought five Milwaukee-area high school teams to campus.

To help students learn about the design of structures, the college’s staff, faculty and students have been volunteering as mentors for the past few months; another will work with the students this summer.

In the competition—spearheaded by LearnDeep Milwaukee—student teams designed a replacement for the 60-year-old wooden water tower that services the Milwaukee County Zoo’s two recreational steam locomotives. The coal-burning trains require 500 gallons of water daily.

Teams that presented their designs represented Franklin, Menomonee Falls and New Berlin Eisenhower high schools, Carmen Schools of Science and Technology and the Elmbrook Launch program. (Bay View High School’s team participated in the challenge but was unable to attend the final round.)

“All the designs featured open towers and steam-era styles as requested by the review panel members,” says Chris Beimborn, STEM outreach specialist and UWM’s point person in the Zoo Train Challenge. “But the students took diverse approaches to the tower supports, roofs, tanks, fill arms, storage areas and education components.”

After the final round presentations, the review panel decided to move forward with a plan that includes elements from each group.

This July, in EMS, Jian Zhao, associate professor, civil & environmental engineering, will teach the high school students how to use Revit software as they complete their final construction drawings for the tower. An engineer from GRAEF will verify that their designs are code-compliant and sign off on them.

Next year, the tower will be fabricated with involvement from members of the high school teams.

Rahim Reshadi, Chris Beimborn and Andrew Dressel

In addition to Beimborn and Zhao, volunteers from the college include Andrew Dressel, lecturer, civil and mechanical engineering, and director of the Bicycle & Motorcycle Engineering Lab; Rahim Reshadi, senior instrumentation specialist; and undergraduate students Ameralys Correa and Allyson McMurray.

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