College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

A hands-on experience for sustainability in demolition

Three students manipulating excavators in competition
Student groups pose together in front of their remote controlled excavators.

The workshop

 Civil engineering students Reilly Healey, Sarah Mumm and Samantha Prigge joined assistant professor Leah Mo for a sustainability workshop at Florida State University. Students from universities across the country worked in teams to complete challenges on a scaled-down demolition site. The students manipulated excavators to separate reusable and non-reusable materials from their sites.

 “This workshop opened my eyes; as a civil engineer, I tend to think of the project impact from the perspective of what we build, but I hadn’t considered the impact of each step in getting there,” said Healey

“I agree,” added Prigge, “demolition is a necessary part of what we do. It was thought-provoking to consider the changes we could make to affect the waste created by that step in a project.”

This workshop is part of Mo’s larger effort in collaboration with Florida A&M University, Florida State University, Florida International University, Georgia Tech University, and Kennesaw State University. The project aims to educate the next generation of engineers to make more sustainable demolition decisions, contributing to improving the climate ideal for the recycling and reuse of demolition materials.

“It was important for me to bring Iowa State CCEE students because I think that hands-on learning and activities help connect to the reality of sustainability. The steps they took in the small-scale demo site can be used in other applications,” said Mo.

Civil engineering student experience

Another aspect of their trip was getting a sense of what other programs do and the day-to-day student experience. Florida State offered tours of their facilities, and students from the other universities bonded over the differences in their programs.

“It was fun to see what becoming a civil engineer looks like on a larger scale. Different schools have different focus areas. So, we’re all going into the same field but with unique experiences,” said Mumm.