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Industry professionals add real-world interaction to AE class

Seniors in The Durham School's AE 8090 course get real-world interaction by working with Omaha's architectural engineering firms. The spring 2009 course, taught by AE associate professor Lily Wang, culminated with student input to a project that will rise as a neighbor to The Peter Kiewit Institute, home of Nebraska Engineering's Omaha programs.

The student teams were given the basic design footprint for a new building: the UNO College of Business Administration's Mammel Hall, scheduled for completion in 2011. Their interdisciplinary mission was to integrate best practices for its mechanical, lighting, electrical, and acoustical aspects.

The teams were assigned industry partners as resources and they met throughout the term. On presentation day at the end of the course, many of those professionals were in the audience. But the most honored guest was Louis Pol, dean of the College of Business Administration, who had a front row seat as the AE student teams presented their concepts for the building's efficiency and aesthetics.

The AE student teams proposed innovations that included daylight harvesting for lighting offices, heating and cooling that utilizes water instead of air, thicker walls around mechanical rooms for noise mitigation, and SmartBeam construction that earns environmental points with 90% recycled materials.

"The ability to bounce ideas off the industry advisers has been great," said senior Charles Foxhoven, "because I've been able to see my design through their eyes: the feasibility of the project for the building system selected, foreseeable problems, and some solutions I haven't thought of." He said it was a "morale booster when I presented ideas that are accepted or even applauded by the industry, which feels like a pat on the back and reinforces the idea that I am an engineer and I know my stuff."

Such high expectations for students are typical in Durham School courses, and this class is a strong example, said Clarence Waters, professor and director of Nebraska's well-regarded AE program.

Foxhoven said that with the industry partners' advice and wisdom, the class transformed into an experience that intensely prepared students to start their careers.

Stephanie Guy, LEED AP Associate with DLR Group, worked with students on mechanical and acoustic issues, while her colleagues advised students on electrical, lighting, architectural and structural areas. Guy, a 2005 graduate of The Durham School, cited the potential benefit for students' teamwork and problem solving skills.

"(The project) teaches them about coordination between disciplines which is a large part of everyday design work," said Guy, who praised the opportunity for students to network and see different approaches. "They may have been taught one way and then an industry professional may come in and suggest or show them a new way."

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