The necessity of civil engineering

James Fein, Staff Writer

PLTW Civil Engineering and Architecture is a class which instructs students on how to implement the Principles of Universal Design and how they affect the construction of commercial and residential structures.

“We have a variety of engineering courses, starting with Design and Drawing Production, and moving on to the other engineering courses. In those classes, the skills are taught for room design and room measurements. We’ve utilized [DDP] to do measurements in the cafeteria for testing [and] for recreating blueprints,” said Vice Principal Matthew Keltos.

PLTW Civil Engineering teaches the students how to apply design principles into their works. 

“In PLTW Civil Engineering and Architecture, we go through the design principles and design process of public works, residential, and commercial structures. Through step by step tutorials and lessons on different aspects of the design process, we learn a variety of different interesting aspects about architecture,” said sophomore Landon L., a PLTW Civil Engineering student.

3D rendering programs are used in teaching the Principles of Universal Design. It is taught with Revit, allowing students to visualize the architectural design of any structure. 

“Revit is a 3D rendering tool, that is industry standard, that’s used in the architectural field and incorporates floor planning, electrical, plumbing, lighting, heating, materials, [and] generates two dimensional blueprints. It could generate 3 dimensional renderings, so you could look at the room from different perspectives. It is basically the tool you would see on HGTV that a home designer would use,” said PLTW Civil Engineering teacher Thomas Shea.

During class, students have the opportunity to combine their knowledge of these basic architectural components to design projects. 

 “[Revit] can be used to demonstrate the Principles of Universal Design, or proper solar orientation, proper furniture placement, proper room layout, traffic patterns in a house. Rather than students imagining what these things would be, they have the ability to create a design, even if it’s bad, and then recreate the design until it satisfies what they want it to do,” said Shea.

Revit also allows students to be creative while designing their structures. 

“We started out the year with a step by step creation of a shed. This taught us how to make a home. We translated what we learned here to create our 900 square foot home, which we placed on that weird piece of land near [the Commack location of] Nathan’s,” said sophomore Amantej R., a PLTW Civil Engineering student. 

The wide variety of architectural tools offered in Revit allows for the customization of students’ structures. 

“I have been able to add my own creative kick to the house to adjust for my liking and to fit the requirements given in the assignment,” said Landon L.

The simulations generated by Revit prepare students for tangible design production within the high school.

“If you want students to get the best education, it’s those authentic tasks [that] give them something they’re going to have to do in the future [… with] the on-scene project, you’re giving 22 kids the opportunity to do a measurement, floor design, or a layout design,” said Keltos.

Several criteria must be fulfilled when designing any type of structure on Revit.

“Since Revit is only available in school, they take quite some time to finish. We usually have submissions every two weeks or so to check on our project. [We have] a final submission in about two months,” said sophomore Ethan M., a PLTW Civil Engineering Student.

At-home assignments are directly associated with the Revit program, applying it to the models of buildings in real-life. 

“Over the years, I’ve tried to align my assignments with, specifically, the use of Revit. I think there is a pretty good parallel between what the students are asked to do on paper and analytically or mathematically, and what they’re doing physically using Revit to implement their ideas,” said Shea.

The acquired knowledge of universal design, and how those design aspects are implemented within Revit have since changed how students perceive commercial and residential structures. 

“The skills I learn in the class open my eyes to much more architecturally based ideas, outside of school. I am able to see when a building is designed well or designed poorly and not up to code, along with seeing what could be done in my own home to make it more efficient,” said sophomore Kevin A., a PLTW Civil Engineering Student.

Students were prepared to implement their knowledge when school administrators reached out to PLTW classes to redesign areas of the school, such as updating facilities to accommodate special needs.

“[Several years ago] we had [PLTW] work with UCP, United Cerebral Palsy, where they created a wheelchair with a functional shelf to it, so the person who had [cerebral palsy] would be able to manipulate things and get the job done. You had someone with a disability, who now was just like anybody else there in a clerical [position]. They were able to make photocopies, they were able to carry around their computer. That’s what you want to have happen,” said Keltos.

Many aspects of universal design taught in PLTW Civil Engineering will be incorporated into future renderings. 

“Some aspects I can reuse are light placement, room separators, walls, and easy furniture placement,” said Amantej R.

Each student may have the opportunity to implement their own ideas into the design of their affordable home, an assignment within the class requiring the utilization of the Principles of Universal Design to satisfy the requirements of any handicapped individual.

“I am hoping to be able to implement some energy efficient ideas and visually pleasing aspects to [put] my own twist to [the design of my affordable home],” said Landon L.

PLTW Civil Engineering provides students with the ability to pursue a career in this field by offering the opportunity to influence and improve upon existing designs within the school, such as measuring rooms, constructing blueprints, or rendering 3D models of their redesigns. Additionally, utilizing Revit to composite their own structures for either in-class assignments, or familiarizing themselves with 3D rendering programs enhances their education.🔳