High School Students 'Dig In' to Environmental Engineering

A group of male and female high school students work on building a structure made out of spaghetti.

Students work on building a structure
made out of spaghetti.

A chorus of ‘ooh’s’ and ‘ah’s’ can be heard murmuring throughout the school bus as a tour guide explains the engineering behind the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill. The bus holds about twenty high school students from varying towns and cities in Ohio, some even from out of state. Today they are learning about landfill construction while participating in the environmental engineering module of Miami University’s Summer Scholars Program.

According to Dr. Catherine Almquist (CPB), the module’s supervising professor, environmental engineering encompasses a broad variety of subjects such as math, physical and biological sciences, economics, social sciences, all while dealing with the management and protection of the environment.

“I love chemistry, and mathematics, and creating things. Those three characteristics are prevalent in engineering fields, and this module encapsulated all of that,” said Sophia Fisher, a senior from Upper Arlington High School in Columbus.

The overall purpose of the Summer Scholars Program is for students to pursue different interests that they aren’t necessarily exposed to in high school, while also acclimating them to a college experience.

Quinn Long, a senior at Mason High School in Mason, Ohio, is participating in the program to explore the general field of engineering before declaring a specialization in college.

“I want to become an engineer, as for what type, I don't know yet...When I was really young I was always interested in learning how things work, and how to improve them,” said Quinn.

In addition to Rumpke, the students have toured the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Middletown, Ohio, and competed against one another to see who could build the tallest structure out of spaghetti that could hold a marshmallow.

Jayden Underwood, a junior from Columbus, said his favorite part so far was the visit to Rumpke. Christina Krummen, a senior attending Saint Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, enjoyed the water treatment tour. Both said that the activities gave them a better understanding of the processes involved in both waste removal and water sanitation. 

The students will continue to learn about the importance of environmental engineering and its relationship to the practical industry throughout the next week of the program.

Written by Sarah Mattina, student communications assistant