Senior Project Puts Civil Engineering Students in the Driver’s Seat to Career-Building Experiences

Emily Barrett, assistant director of communications
Civil engineering teammates review a color-coded map of Philadelphia on a computer screen.

A team of civil engineering students is underway with an investigation to answer a question circulating through major cities across the country: is too much space devoted to parking?

Working together as a senior engineering project team, Randy Bachman, Emily Roth, Julissa Samano, Bryce Magee, and Nic Perletta have spent months researching cities that successfully implemented parking reform to glean insight into effective policy and zoning amendments. Their objective is to draft proposed revisions to Philadelphia’s zoning regulations that would reduce the amount of space dedicated to parking, a move that stands to offer a number of advantages such as more green space for public enjoyment and potential cost-savings to developers. 

Two male civil engineer students engage and look a computer screen.
Randy Bachman (left) and Bryce Magee (right) collaborate on their senior project.

This yearlong undertaking is part of the School of Engineering’s hallmark senior research program designed to simulate real-world engineering projects and introduce students to roles and responsibilities they can expect in their careers.  

“It’s not just a class project of working in groups, it is like a real work environment,” said Bachman, the project leader. 

“We’re submitting time sheets every week, we have deliverables to make, we have deadlines, so this is all great practice for when we’re going to be out in the field.”

Bachman and the team used cities such as Buffalo, San Diego, and Minneapolis as their blueprints on how to approach and implement city-wide changes. Changes such as San Diego’s transit area reduction and bicycle parking substitute are just some of the many proposal examples that the research has produced thus far. 

Female and male civil engineering students converse during a team project meeting.
After graduation, team member Emily Roth will work at Colliers Engineering and Design specializing in highway design.

Given the far-reaching implications of the team’s proposals, Bachman explained that earning buy-in from key stakeholders throughout the duration of the process was critical to the project’s success.

“Our proposals would affect everybody – not just the general public, but developers, the city zoning commission, and beyond,” Bachman said.

In February, the team met with Philadelphia Councilman Allan Domb and top members of his staff, including his chief of staff, policy advisor, and general counsel, to present their findings and zoning recommendations. 

“I enjoyed and appreciated the students’ perspective and approach to addressing a problem through research and public policy,” said Councilman Domb.

“They’re knowledgeable of the complexities of these issues and enthusiastic about our ability to change how Philadelphia operates. This project is a great example of how our academic institutions add a great deal of value to our civic discussions and our collective futures," Domb added.

A group of civil engineering students diligently work on the laptops during a team meeting.
The Senior Project Team (L-R): Emily Roth, Nic Perletta, Randy Bachman, and Bryce Magee (not pictured: Julissa Samano).

The virtual meeting, orchestrated by Adjunct Professor Michael Radbill, the team’s academic advisor, allowed the students to not only interact directly with a city official, but also receive real-time feedback from local policymakers who are familiar with the issues and poised to offer guidance and recommendations. 

“I strive to provide an opportunity for my students to present their projects to the public because that is what many engineers do when they leave university and begin their engineering careers,” said Radbill. 

“Some professors teach engineering skills; I like to focus on business skills,” Radbill said.

For Bachman, the skills learned throughout the program will transfer immediately into his job at the engineering firm Stantec after graduation.

“I’m going to have to be presenting throughout my engineering career, so it was helpful to get practice in front of public officials like that,” said Bachman.

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