E90 Update – Trip to the Bus Yard

Thomas Saf-T-Liner C2

For my E90 senior engineering design project, I will be working on pollution reduction at the local school bus yard.  I enjoyed my first visit to the bus yard, and it was great to learn about some of the particulate filtration systems already in use.

No Idling Sign

Parrish Declared Structurally Unsound

Parrish falling into disrepair

Parrish falling into disrepair

Faculty members from the Engineering Department were called in to provide emergency consultation after part of the facade fell off of the rear of Parrish this morning.  They apparently found massive structural defects and believe collapse is imminent.  Non-essential personnel who work in Parrish’s Center Wing were evacuated this afternoon.

The Matrix (of WAs)

For my final project in Engineering 57 (Operations Research), I implemented a linear programming formulation that optimizes the scheduling of Writing Associates in the Swarthmore Writing Center.  My final report [download .pdf] was due today, and it’s a big relief to have it done.  This was a fun project, and I especially enjoyed working with AMPL.  Next semester, I’ll be doing more operations research work in Engineering 66 (Environmental Systems).

The Engineering Department's Suburban

On the way to Chester

On the way to Chester

I recently had the honor of driving the Engineering Department’s 1986 Suburban Scottsdale. I first encountered this vehicle, a veritable institution of the Department first acquired as a chase car for a solar car race, in my freshman year trips to Chester to tutor with the Engineering Department. Until being instructed to drive to a water quality sampling site the other day, I never thought I would have the honor of driving this esteemed vehicle. (Esteemed meaning that the brakes are questionable, there’s no power locks or windows, and the lining on the back ceiling is falling down so as to obstruct the view out the rear-view mirror).

My Small Liberal Arts College Unexpected and Possibly Too Close for Comfort Vehicle and Professor Accessibility Index (SLACUPTCCVPAI) is now currently:

  • Number of Faculty/Administrators I’ve been driven by: 8
  • Number of Faculty/Administrators’ houses I’ve dined at: 3
  • Number of Faculty/Administrators’ vehicles I’ve driven: 1

Water Quality Exam

Gross looking runoff under the Baltimore Pike overpass

On Wednesday while studying for my first exam in Water Quality and Pollution Control, I decided that I needed to go for a jog up the Crum Creek.  I could get some exercise while at the same time exploring a local impaired stream – what better way to prepare for a test on urban runoff?

I’ve wanted to go explore Smedley Park, which is north of Baltimore Pike, for a while.  What had stopped me up to this point was having to cross the creek, Paper Mill Road, and Baltimore Pike, all without any clear pedestrian markings.  This means getting from the lower right to upper left corner of this picture unscathed:

I found the appropriate paths and made it to the park.  The quiet woods and fat groundhog were enjoyable.  I’m definitely glad I found the way up to the park and plan on returning there soon.  Things should be gorgeous when the leaves change.

One lane road in Smedley Park


The Human Cost of Coal

The Environmental Studies Program at Swarthmore sponsored a great talk tonight centered around mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia. Ken Hechler (Swarthmore Class of 1935), the former long-serving Secretary of State of West Virginia, and Larry Gibson, an environmental activist, shared their perspectives on the harms of coal inherent in its mining, processing, and combustion. I met both of them before the talk and was impressed by their passion and energy. At 94 years old, Ken was a little hard of hearing, but had a vast amount of experience and perspective to share. Larry shared some deeply personal stories about his childhood in West Virginia; more about his work is available at the Keeper of the Mountains Foundation. While Appalachia is a vastly different setting than Roxbury, MA, where I was working this summer, I definitely consider the issues they discussed tonight to be ones of environmental justice.

Water Quality Lab

My lab group collecting samples in Ridley Township [Photo courtesy of Professor McGarity]

Last week was my first lab session for my Water Quality and Pollution Control class.  Our group retrieved and analyzed samples from an autosampling setup on a tributary to the Little Crum Creek.  It was good to be back in the Engineering Department Suburban for the first time this year.  It’s always an adventure having professors drive around in the Suburban (which is even older than my dad’s truck).  I also enjoyed feeling like I was back in a chemistry lab after a few years of heavily mechanical/electrical labs.  We analyzed the samples, which had been taken during a recent rain event, for total suspended solids, nitrates, and phosphates.  Professor McGarity’s work on local watershed issues is outlined here.