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Civil engineering senior project will benefit local organization

A section of MU civil engineering’s senior design capstone class is working on a community project to design a sports facility for the Columbia Youth Basketball Association at the Boone County Fairgrounds. Posing for a photo on the day the project was introduced to the class are Skip Elkin, Boone County commissioner; Patti Butera, lead fundraiser for CYBA; Chelsea Smith, civil engineering senior and Sam Masters, civil engineering capstone advisor.

As a University of Missouri civil engineering senior design project, working with the Columbia Youth Basketball Association’s (CYBA) on plans for a facility at the Boone County Fairgrounds has a lot going for it. The student capstone project to map out a preliminary design for the building involves sports, kids, community service and offers real world design experience.

“Our goal as a class is to reduce CYBA’s final engineering costs by coming up with a preliminary design,” said Chelsea Smith, one of a dozen civil engineering seniors assigned to the task. “We get to look at the whole project. We’ll be doing some site work, H-VAC, plumbing, electrical work … I’m really excited.”

Civil engineering capstone advisor Sam Masters said students will work in two groups. One will work on the structure — the building and everything in it — and the other will do site work, including storm water runoff, parking lot, and landscaping.

“The students will do the preliminary design that will be given to a professional engineering firm. The firm will do necessary modifications and take it through the bidding process and into construction,” said Masters, a 1972 MU civil engineering graduate and MoDOT retiree.

CYBA is a non-profit organization founded and operated by Columbians who want every local youth to have the chance to play basketball. With an emphasis on fundamental skills and sportsmanship, and a generous scholarship program, 1,000 kids participate on CYBA teams. A partnership with Columbia Parks and Recreation has contributed to the program’s success.

Currently, Columbia Public Schools provide space for games at various elementary schools but the program has become so popular it is bursting its own seams. Very little gym space is available during the week, so teams don’t get much of  a chance to practice. When CYBA was approached by the Boone County Commission with a land lease opportunity, the association jumped at the opportunity.

“When the county purchased the fairgrounds, we had agricultural recreation and outdoor opportunities for kids in mind,” said Skip Elkin, Boone County District II Commissioner, referencing 4-H and FFA organizations.

Elkin said public input reinforced that intention and broadened it to include additional activities and events that require recreational and meeting space.

CYBA formed a fundraising committee and launched a capital campaign to build a four-court basketball facility on the county’s fairgrounds that also can host other local sporting events. The building will additionally provide space that can be used during the county fair and for such things as meetings and conferences.

Professional fundraiser Patti Butera is leading CYBA’s capital campaign. She first contacted MU’s Trulaske College of Business about the possibility of helping with marketing, and then the College of Engineering about student help with the building design.

“This class project will give us some basic information to share with other professional engineers. It will lay some groundwork,” Butera said.

Masters, has been facilitating capstone projects for the civil engineering department for three semesters. His background in design and construction lends itself to the senior design projects.

While at MoDOT, Masters enjoyed serving as a mentor to younger engineers. He said the opportunity to work with MU students and to shed a little light on what they can expect in their careers is something he enjoys. Because of the unique nature of the CYBA project, he will require a little something extra of this semester’s class: students will have to work within a budget.

When preparing the budget, Masters said he left a little “wiggle room” for CYBA.

“I’ve given them some cushion since they will still need funding to hire the professional firm and put the project out for bids,” Masters said. “In the real world, knowing when to make compromises is a given,” said Masters. “Balancing what you want with what you need and can do is how things work.”

Commissioner Elkin said the student project would give participating students a unique insight into a real world project. “This is not just an academic project. We work under different rules and regulations than the public sector,” he said. “Our construction must be OSHE certified. The students will have to consider building codes and must meet with the building inspector. It’s a real project that they’ll get to leave their fingerprints on.”

Butera said CYBA is hoping to break ground in the spring of 2012, so the group will work to complete as much of the plan as possible this semester.

Masters will require weekly written progress reports from each student. The groups also will meet regularly with Elkin and Butera with progress updates.

“All of our classes — fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, geotech, hydrology — will come into play,” said Smith. “It’s a very cool project.. All the wheels in my head are turning, thinking of how we can make it work out.”