Engineering Students’ Designs are Client-Connected

Engineering Students’ Designs are Client-Connected
Shawnee Mission School District

Students in the Engineering Signature Program were immersed in a client-based project. They shared their designs and solutions in a capstone tradeshow event at the conclusion of the first semester.

The students were connected with professionals from Landmark Structures. One area of their business is to provide innovative solutions for water storage. Students were challenged to redesign a water tower to provide a multi-use solution.

Embracing the real-world learning model allows high school students to connect with real client projects and opportunities, John Miller, Landmark Structures, Director of Business Development. That helps both businesses and students in a number of ways, including the ability to help solve problems that need to be addressed.

For example, Miller shared that many water towers in dense urban areas like Manhattan Island were built in the 1930s and are approaching the end of their 80-100 year service life.

“Municipalities want to maximize to amount of use they get from that very expensive real estate,” he added. “Partnering with the Engineering Signature Program has provided a great opportunity to expose students to the process of balancing functional requirements and creative design.”

Applying his knowledge in Revit, a modeling software, Carter Boterf, SM South junior, worked to build a community solution. Boterf’s tower featured an area for disaster relief with a command center, conference room, and his favorite feature, an observation deck.

“Designing the interior was a challenge because I am used to designing in squares,” Boterf said. “Circle design presents different issues, but it was a beneficial experience.”

Ben Baughman, a SM East junior, shared that typically zoning does not allow commercial stores or residences in a water tower. Baughman’s glass enclosed tower featured community spaces with classrooms and meeting rooms. He also included the options for community events like farmer’s markets and art exhibitions. He wanted to make the water tower attractive so it could be a destination and local families would not mind having the structure in their “backyard.”

Alyssa Jimenez, SM East senior, was interested in solving the issue of food deserts in inner cities. Oftentimes water towers are located in cities where people don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Jimenez, who is Revit certified, built her solution to include Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) with aquaponic systems to provide fish fertilizer for plant beds. Plants would be native to the state where the water tower is located. Her tower included six levels with meeting and office spaces along with family and educational areas. Jimenez was mindful to make plant beds and restrooms Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible. She noted one of her challenges was creating circular stairs

The solutions students presented were unique and innovative, professional mentor Miller noted.  Miller plans to continue mentoring the students and sharing their designs and ideas with Landmark Structures.

“Having students connected with mentors and companies validates their learning,” Greg Thiel, engineering instructor noted. “Knowing their project has value in the industry is a huge benefit.”

If your business or company has client projects or opportunities for high school students, please contact Laura Harsch, Business to Education Program Officer, at