Works of Scholarship

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    The Five-minute Adsorption Demonstration
    (ASEE, 2020) Butkus, Michael; Shetty, Anand; Wallen, Benjamin; Sheehan, Nathaniel; Pfluger, Andrew
    Adsorption is one of the most common physicochemical treatment processes in environmental engineering. Faculty typically teach this process by explaining figures and equations in texts, which can limit learning. The five minute classroom demonstration presented here replicates the adsorption experiment and data analysis, which may engage students and enhance learning without imposing substantial demands on student time. Students observe removal of Crystal violet dye or food coloring by activated carbon in real time in a column demonstration. Simultaneously, data from an adsorption experiment is collected in an accelerated video format and an animated PowerPoint presentation illustrates how experimental data is used to quantify Isotherm Model parameters. Results from the Crystal violet adsorption experiment and isotherm model parameters are presented along with an in-class example problem.
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    Use of X-Ray Fluorescence to Expedite Sampling to Evaluate and Visualize Soil Lead Concentrations at West Point, NY
    (IEEE, 2020) Wallen, Benjamin; Kimball, M. A.; Wright, William C.; Sheehan, N. P.; Flagg, T. D.; Avellaneda-Ruiz, A. R.; Bier, P.V.
    The concentration of heavy metals, specifically lead, in soil may create unsafe environmental conditions. Unsafe conditions may occur based upon previous exposure to lead, such as particulate pollution from leaded gasoline. Accumulation of lead in the soil is especially concerning due to the detrimental physiological effects soil lead has on populations within residential neighborhoods. This study investigates the efficacy of an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) sensor compared to use of an inductively coupled plasma (ICP) laboratory instrument to measure soil lead concentration through a comparison of 87 soils samples. Findings note a strong correlation between both measurement methods. Additionally, 206 samples were evaluated to visualize soil lead concentrations throughout the residential West Point area. The highest soil lead concentrations are along the former route 9W, at locations associated with buildings that pre-date 1940.
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    Location, Location, Location: The Value of Disciplinary Adjacency in Enhancing Environmental Engineering Programs
    (ASEE, 2019) Dacunto, Phil; Butkus, Michael
    Since the field was largely born out of civil engineering, most of the initial environmental engineering degree-granting programs began in civil engineering departments. Many have stayed there. However, 10 of the last 25 environmental engineering programs accredited by ABET have emerged in other departments. The rationale for aligning environmental engineering programs with other disciplines can be based on numerous factors including diversity of perspectives within the department, collaboration opportunities, facilities requirements, and efficiency. This study examines the distribution of ABET-accredited environmental engineering programs across departments, to include specific program adjacencies and trends over time. In addition, the study examines faculty perspectives on the departmental alignment of environmental engineering programs, to include the faculty’s overall satisfaction with their program’s adjacencies, and the advantages and disadvantages of its particular alignment. Furthermore, it examines faculty perspectives on the program adjacencies that they believe would be most useful, as well as the reasons why. These faculty perspectives can be used to inform the actions of academic institutions who are forming new environmental engineering programs, or those considering a program realignment. In addition, they can inform faculty in existing programs of potential inter-program collaborative possibilities, regardless of which department currently houses their program.
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    Investigation of Diurnal Fluctuations of Heat and Water Distributions Around Landmines Impacted by Soil Heterogeneity
    (IEEE, 2020) Wallen, Benjamin; Wright, William C.; Oxendine, C. E.
    The environment in which landmines are placed is heterogeneous. Such differences in soil type, packing and moisture, combined with changes in surface and climate conditions can oftentimes mask the presence of a mine. Understanding the impact of heterogeneity on heat and mass transfer behavior near landmines is paramount to properly identifying landmine locations for demining operations. This study investigates the impact of soil heterogeneity on soil moisture and temperature distributions around buried objects to increase understanding of environmental conditions most dynamic to mine detection performance. A ten-day field experiment was conducted with sensors monitoring atmospheric, surface, and subsurface conditions relative to four different conditions associated with landmine emplacement. Experimental results demonstrate distinct behaviors in soil moisture and temperature distributions above and around buried objects that change due to soil heterogeneity and different climate conditions (i.e., temperature and rain events).
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    Technical Communications in an Environmental Engineering Curriculum: A Framework for Analysis and Continual Improvement
    (ASEE, 2020) McCollum, Caleb; Pfluger, Andrew; Butkus, Michael
    The ability to effectively communicate technical information is an important skill for engineers, especially young engineers entering the workforce upon completion of their education. Undergraduate environmental engineering programs normally address technical communications, but some do not provide intentionally placed discipline-specific technical communication experiences designed to progressively increase communication skills through the curriculum. Conducting a crosswalk of graded events with a technical communication component across a curriculum can help an institution understand the placement of technical communication graded events and identify opportunities for improvement. This study presents a survey-based approach for gathering information about all technical communication graded events within an environmental engineering curriculum and a method for analysis using a longitudinal crosswalk of all applicable courses from freshman to senior year. Results from this study indicate that the number of graded technical communication events in our program increases longitudinally from freshman to senior year. Further, the number of individually completed events and written events were highest in the sophomore year, with team events and oral communication events increasing in the junior and senior years. Additionally, the weighting of graded events shifted longitudinally through major courses. Graded events worth 5% of the course grade were most prevalent in the sophomore year, and events worth ≥ 5% occurred most frequently in the senior year. Implications for our university’s environmental engineering program are discussed, to include opportunities for scaffolding events across courses. The methods presented in this study can be used by other environmental engineering programs to identify gaps in technical communication education and methods for improvement within their curriculum.