Recent News

Faculty Volunteers Work to Improve Pismo Preserve

Mar 12, 2018

Cal Poly faculty members Judd King and Nephi Derbidge are helping The Land Conservancy of San Luis County create a parking area and trailhead for the Pismo Preserve, a nearly 880-acre property with sweeping views of Pismo Beach and 11 miles of trails for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.Student performing lab testing

The Land Conservancy acquired the Pismo Preserve in September 2014 with the goal of creating a space for hiking, biking and equestrian use. It envisioned a project that provides safe access to different users while being sensitive to the surrounding communities. The Pismo Preserve is the first project of this magnitude to be developed by the Land Conservancy. The site will have restrooms, picnic facilities and a wheelchair-accessible trail.

While doing initial environmental studies on the site, it was discovered that the project location contained sensitive cultural resources belonging to the yak tityu tityu yak tilhini (ytt), Northern Chumash tribe. The Land Conservancy worked with ytt leaders on a plan that reduces impacts to sensitive resources. To mitigate impact on the site, the project size was reduced and minimal excavation was done. These measures ensure sensitive resources are protected while still providing safe public access.

The presence of sensitive resources limits the amount of remedial grading that can be done in the area. To create a level parking area, about 12 feet of soil will be used to fill the sloped project area and will then be supported by a retaining wall.
King and Derbidge are donating their geotechnical engineering and soil testing services. Derbidge and student assistant Jack Christy conducted a soil-testing program to measure the compressibility and strength characteristics of the onsite soil.

King was responsible for taking data generated by Derbidge to assess soil settlement in the final retaining wall design.

The Land Conservancy hopes that by providing this space the general quality of life will improve for residents and visitors alike. The Pismo Preserve is expected to open in late 2018.

International Women's Day | Women in Engineering

Mar 8, 2018

In honor of International Women's Day, we're celebrating some of the countless trailblazing women in engineering.

(1898-1983) Elsie Eaves was the first woman admitted as a full member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). She completed a degree in civil engineering from the University of Colorado and worked for the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads, the Colorado State Highway Department and the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Her research in construction trends was used by various organizations but was most influential in construction planning after the Great Depression. (Source: Engineer Girl (1885-1957) Olive Dennis was the second woman ever to graduate from Cornell University with a degree in civil engineering and the first female member of the American Railway Engineering Association. During her 30-year career, she worked for the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad and was the railroad’s first service engineer. She was tasked with improving passenger experience and is credited with creating reclining seats, stain-resistant upholstery, patented window vents and air conditioning. (Source: Transportation History)
(1883-1971) Nora Stanton is one of the first women in the United States to earn a degree in civil engineering and the first woman to be admitted as a junior member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). She worked for the American Bridge Company, New York City Board of Water Supply, and as an assistant engineer and chief draftsman for the Radley Steel Construction Company. (Source: ASCE) (1878-1972) Lillian Gilbreth is considered by many as the “mother of modern management” and is credited with developing industrial management techniques still used today. She held a doctorate in psychology and was the first female professor at Purdue’s college of engineering. She was the first female member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and was awarded the Hoover Medal by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). (Source: ASME)
Shudabeh is the second woman ever to be awarded the Hoover Medal by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASME). Shudabeh earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Purdue and is currently the Assistant Director of Engineering and Public Works for the city of Vista, CA. She co-founded CHILD, an organization dedicated to educational opportunities and self-sufficiency programs in Iran, Afghanistan, Mexico, Turkey, India and Belarus. (Source: ASME)  

Environmental Engineering Celebrates 50th Anniversary and Dr. Hal Cota

Feb 27, 2018

Environmental Engineering commemorated its 50th anniversary with a May 4-6 celebration and renamed the Air Pollution Control Lab for Professor Emeritus Hal Cota, one of the founders of the program.

Cota was hired in 1966 and taught advanced courses in what was then the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Department. Cota helped spearhead the addition of the air pollution control concentration in the department, which would later become an important part of the curricula for the environmental engineering program.

With his help, former AC&R Department Chair Jim McGrath and then-university President Robert Kennedy in 1968 established the Environmental Engineering Department.

Cota believed that a curriculum that combined chemical and environmental engineering was best for providing students the training needed to tackle the nation’s environmental issues.

Fifty years ago, there were no undergraduate environmental engineering programs in the country, making Cal Poly’s one of the first of its kind. The first environmental engineering class of 14 students graduated in 1968. Between 1968 and 1982, environmental engineering was its own department until civil engineering was added.

His contributions have made a lasting impression on generations of students over the years. In the past 50 years, more than 1,500 students have graduated thanks to Cota’s efforts. College of Engineering officials say renaming the department lab will keep his contributions alive for generations of students to come.

“He had such a big impact on my life because he created this program in a way that fits me personally. He created something unique – a combination of environmental and chemical engineering,” said Yarrow Nelson, a Cal Poly environmental engineering professor.


Alumni Spotlight | From Cal Poly to Geotechnical Engineer at Langan

Feb 25, 2018

Katrina Watkins, who graduated in 2013 with a degree in civil engineering, attributes her successful career to her Cal Poly education, involvement on campus and on-site construction experience.

While a student, she was involved as a WOW (Week of Welcome) leader, executive board leader for the Society of Women Engineers local chapter, a member of the Concrete Canoe Team and sat on the executive board for Chi Epsilon, the Civil Engineering Honor Society.

Watkins spent three years as a staff engineer at Langan, an engineering and environmental consulting firm in San Francisco, while training to become a licensed professional engineer.

At Langan, she worked on construction sites to make certain contractors installed items correctly and soil was being treated properly. She took a year off to pursue a master’s degree in civil engineering at UC Berkeley and graduated in July 2018. She is now a senior staff engineer and PE in Langan’s geotechnical department.

“Getting to work in civil engineering is so rewarding because you get to see the fruits of your labor on the skyline in the cities that you work in. I love problem-solving, and getting to do this on a day-to-day basis is very rewarding,” said Watkins. 

Langan is a sponsor of the CEENVE department and offers various internship and entry level positions for students. Openings can be viewed on the department’s Job & Scholarship listing page.

To learn more about Langan, visit, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Twitter.

Cal Poly EWB Begin Plans for Water Distribution and Purification System

Feb 12, 2018

Over winter break, the Cal Poly Engineers Without Borders (EWB) team visited the small Nicaraguan village of La Rinconada to begin plans for a water purification and distribution system for the 300 residents.

Most of the residents rely on natural spring water that flows through a pipe that is subject to cracking because of its shallow burial. In addition, the pipeline doesn’t reach all 87 homes. Some homes have wells. The water is often polluted by livestock manure, however. Illnesses have been attributed to the lack of clean water in the community.

Cal Poly EWB has been working with local community leaders and a non-governmental organization since October 2017. More than 30 Cal Poly students have been working together to design the water process system. The final design will take about six months to complete and will be approved by a professional engineer.

The water distribution and purification system will provide clean water for all 87 homes and will completely cut off the old water source. The students plan to drill the well in spring 2018 and hope to be done with the entire pipeline distribution system by summer 2019.


First Official Participant in the Industrial Partnership Program: Ken Lindberg

Jan 6, 2018

Department Chair, Dr. Charles Chadwell, has officially initiated the new Industrial Partnership Program for the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. We thank Ken Lindberg, Vice President and co-founder of Power Engineering Construction Co. for being one of our first donors through the program.

Ken Lindberg graduated from Cal Poly in 1979, when there were not as many concentrations offered in civil engineering as there are today. Ken’s focus in structural engineering at Cal Poly led him to a career in construction engineering. He always appreciated the down-to-earth attitude and “learn by doing” mentality at Cal Poly. He continues to support and grow the education of the civil and environmental engineering students here by participating on the Industrial Advisory Board. With his generous donation, he hopes to provide more opportunities for student projects that will further enhance their education. He also hopes to spark the interest of civil engineering students to consider a career in construction engineering.

Power Engineering Construction Co. specializes in marine, heavy civil, and design-build projects. Founded in 1986, the firm pursues excellence in civil engineering by focusing on the technical aspects of their designs. Power Engineering Construction Co. has grown to roughly 80 employees and regularly recruits Cal Poly Students as part of their team. They have worked on many projects in Northern California, including the expansion of the San Francisco Ferry Terminal and construction of water treatment plants in Redwood City and Palo Alto.

If you would like to learn more about Power Engineering Construction Co., please visit their website at:

Cannon Corp Sponsors Cal Poly CE/ENVE Water Lab

Dec 8, 2017

Cannon’s partnership with the College of Engineering’s Hydraulics Laboratory stems from a commitment to excellence in water resource infrastructure development and a long-standing partnership between Cannon and Cal Poly. 

Cal Poly’s Water Resources Laboratory, or also referred to as the Hydraulics Laboratory, is an educational and hands-on resource for the College of Engineering’s undergraduate and graduate students. As a requirement for all Civil and Environmental Engineering majors, this laboratory provides students with the opportunity to “Learn by Doing” where students are able to learn about principles and applications of flow measurement in pipes and open channels, rainfall runoff, and discharge through a weir. Recently, the Hydraulics Lab was awarded a three-year sponsorship totaling $15,000 to fund student research projects and purchase new equipment. This generous donation was provided by local engineering firm, Cannon.

Cannon’s partnership with the College of Engineering’s Hydraulics Laboratory stems from a commitment to excellence in water resource infrastructure development and a long-standing partnership between Cannon and Cal Poly. This funding partnership allows Cannon to stay at the forefront of water resources in the areas of desalination, low impact development, and improved efficiencies for water treatment. Beyond achieving financial benefits from this partnership, students and Cal Poly receive additional benefits.

Students have the opportunity to meet regularly with engineers from Cannon who are in-the-field designing and implementing the very types of projects that are being studied within the laboratory setting. Having this resource provides students with an opportunity to investigate ideas, concepts, or theories with experienced engineers. 


SCE Wins the Robert Ridgeway Award

Oct 23, 2017

"The Robert Ridgway Award is presented annually to the single most outstanding Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  Each year we submit an annual report that includes information and pictures about our goals, social events, community service events, project teams, mentorship program, general meetings, career fair, conferences, and everything else our chapter is involved with.  It is a huge honor to be awarded this and we are proud to say this is our 7th time receiving the award.  We have been a finalist 11 additional times."

-Cate Kraska, SCE President

 Eight Cal Poly SCE Members and one advisor were able to attend the ASCE National Convention in New Orleans because they won the Robert Ridgeway Award.


CE/ENVE Department starts a fundraising campaign to upgrade the Concrete Canoe Shed

Oct 18, 2017

The Industrial Affiliates Program has been retooled and is being launched this week in an effort to raise funds for expanding the current Concrete Canoe shed to include a dedicated student meeting space.   


The goal of the Industrial Affiliates Program is to create a consistent source of company sponsorship to help support student success.  The center of our campaign as we start our new program is the Concrete Canoe work shed.  The Canoe folks have outgrown their current space and are looking to expand into the space next door.   

Currently, the space is split between Mechanical Engineering (where it is used as storage) and the Concrete Canoe workshop where all the magic happens.  If we can raise enough money to renovate the current ME space, we can not only expand the shop but we can create a dedicated student meeting space in the center of all the CE/ENVE action - right next to Building 13 

Cal Poly ITE Bowls 'em Over, Named Student Chapter of the Year

Aug 14, 2017

For the third time in four years, Cal Poly’s Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) club has been named the Institute’s international Chapter of the Year.

The student group was honored at the ITE annual conference, held July 30-Aug. 2 in Toronto for the outstanding activities and achievements reflected in its annual report.

Cal Poly ITE was the recipient of back-to-back international titles in 2014 and 2015, and has been ITE’s premier Western District chapter for four years running.

The club also made history at the conference’s Collegiate Traffic Bowl Grand Championship, a Jeopardy!-style competition that tests the transportation knowledge of the top team winners of the ITE district competitions.

“Our team brought home the Traffic Bowl trophy for the second year in a row — and that is a first,” said Ashley Kim, president of Cal Poly ITE of Irvine, Calif. “The challenges of this contest are such that no other university has won it twice, and we did it!”

The team also took home more than $2,700 in prize money at the championship.

Cal Poly ITE’s Traffic Bowl team also included Ryan Caldera, vice president, of Irvine; Jonathan Howard, treasurer, of Murphys, Calif.; Curtis Yee, member, of Sacramento; and Vanessa See, professional coordinator officer who served as team alternate, of San Francisco.

Other Cal Poly ITE officers include Justina Tran, secretary, of San Jose, Calif.; Brian Gaul, webmaster, of Agoura Hills, Calif.; Sang Hee Cho, social coordinator, of Seoul, South Korea; Jacob Friedhoff, marketing coordinator, of Tualatin, Ore.; Seitu Coleman, historian, of Lafayette, Calif.; Calvin Chen, IRA (Instructionally Related Activities) liaison, of Placentia, Calif.; Travis Low, past president (2012-13); and Krista Purser, past president (2015-16) of Clayton, Calif. Civil engineering Professor Anurag Pande was faculty advisor.

In addition to the club’s wins, graduate students Kim and Low presented research at the conference based on their respective master’s theses. Earlier this summer, Low received the Outstanding Graduate Student Award at ITE’s Western District annual meeting in San Diego.

Kim praised the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s role in encouraging the club, noting that Pande, department staff representative Amy Sinclair and Cal Poly ITE past president Krista Purser traveled to Toronto to show their support.

About ITE

The Institute of Transportation Engineers is an international association of nearly 17,000 transportation professionals and more than 140 student chapters.


Read more here


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