Drexel Engineers Earn Spot as Finalists in International Student Design Competition

Omaha Va Outdoor
The team's design concept includes a double skin facade for insulation.

A team of ten Drexel Engineering seniors from the College of Engineering has been selected as finalists in the Architectural Engineering Institute's 2024 International Student Design Competition. The multidisciplinary team, consisting of students majoring in civil, architectural, and environmental engineering, will showcase their design to judges on April 9 in San Jose, California.

The competition, which encourages collaboration and peer review, challenges students to develop innovative solutions to complex design problems while considering the integration of engineered systems with the building's architecture. Participants must demonstrate their knowledge and skills in various aspects of building design and construction, including structural engineering, mechanical and electrical design, and construction management.

For this year’s competitions, teams were asked to redesign a Veterans Affairs ambulatory care center in Omaha, Nebraska. The team worked to ensure that their concept caters to the needs of veterans, their families, and the staff who support them.

"We looked at the stakeholders of the project and divided our design approach into three categories: patients, staff, and family members,” said team leader Alex Beglan. “We wanted to create spaces that address the needs of each group while preserving the functionality of the clinical spaces."

The design includes several innovative features, such as a vegetation garden on the south side of the building for use by patients, family members and staff; a double skin facade on the north side of the building for insulation; and a redesigned assembly space that enhances stakeholders’ interaction with the outdoors. The team also had to tackle challenges on how to implement modular construction and preserve a circular economy approach for building disassembly.

To tackle the project, the team was divided into two subgroups: one focusing on the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, and the other on the structural aspects, including geotechnical foundation and modular construction, said team member Kris Melag. The team also held regular group-wide meetings to ensure the integration of all the systems and maintain a cohesive design approach.

Omama Va Rain Garden
A rain garden will take advantage of drainage to grow vegetation for sue by patients, staff and guests.

One of the unique challenges the team faced was the competition's timeline, which required them to work ahead of their regular senior design schedule. "Drexel's schedule made doing this competition a little challenging," said team member Emma Pasnak. "We know that most students who go to semester schools would be starting their work in August, so we met over the summer term and start our research and design before the fall semester even started."

Despite the demanding schedule, the team has risen to the challenge, putting in long hours and collaborating effectively to bring their vision to life. "It was a lot of work and a lot of late nights, but being in the position we're at now, it was a good decision to put in the effort," Pasnak added.

The other members of the team, who were instrumental in the project's success, are Ambar Acosta, Laura Bach, Shane Corson, Anh Dang, Julian Ramcharitar, Igor Solovev and Andrew Warren.

As they prepare for the competition, they are also working to secure funding for their travel expenses. "It's the first time in 11 years that Drexel has gone to the competition," said Beglan. "We have a mountain of work to do before the competition, but we're all trying to balance that with feeling really proud of ourselves for having just gotten here.”