New RainWorks Club Wins National Student Design Competition

June 05, 2017

One of Cal Poly’s newest clubs, Cal Poly Rainworks, won first place in the WSP l Parsons Brinckerhoff Student Design Competition, a key student event during the annual World Environmental and Water Resources Congress, held late May by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The competition challenges undergraduate senior students to solve real-life infrastructure problems with “practical yet innovative” solutions.

The site design team for the club’s project — a creekwide revival stormwater management plan — was led by Delaney Nelson and Patrick Nagle, both civil engineering majors.

Cal Poly Rainworks was founded expressly to involve students in environmental and water resources design competitions, according to founder Nathan Hanson, currently a civil and environmental engineering graduate student, who served as the club’s first president and has remained involved as an advisor.

“After returning from an internship project for the City of Aspen, Colo., involving stormwater management, I wanted to expand upon that experience at school, but found that there were limited course options,” said Hanson. “That’s when I found out about an EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) competition, and it seemed like a great way to get students involved in a design project early on in their college career.”

It’s the second year that the club has engaged in a national competition, and the second time it’s fielded two teams. In addition to the site design team, this year’s Cal Poly RainWorks entrants included a master plan team headed by Hillary Tung, a civil and environmental master’s student, and Arturo Zaragoza , a landscape architecture major. Rebekah Oulton, civil and environmental engineering professor, is faculty advisor.

"One thing I noted in my faculty advisor letter of support was that this project was done as an extracurricular activity," said Oulton, "I thought it was important for the selection committee to appreciate that this design project was done by students in their free time because they are passionate about learning more about stormwater management."

The intensely interdisciplinary nature of the contest showed students, first hand, how much civil and environmental engineering contributes to a water resources project.  

“For civils, it can be how much water is moving over the site and how to design low-impact development best management practices,” said Hanson, “while environmental engineering students typically focus on identifying contaminants of concern and how to treat them.”

For students eager to learn about the new field of low-impact development and stormwater quality, it not only may help them get a job, but it also turbocharges Learn by Doing.

“There’s no one class that can prepare you for this competition,” said Hanson, “so whether you're a freshman or upperclassman, you'll come out with a lot more design knowledge, creative problem solving and multidisciplinary team work experience than you came in with.”

About EWRI

Created in 1999, the Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI) is the recognized leader within ASCE for the integration of technical expertise and public policy in the planning, design, construction, and operation of environmentally sound and sustainable infrastructure impacting air, land and water resources.

About WSP USA (formerly WSP l Parsons Brinckerhoff)

WSP USA, formerly WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, is the U.S. operating company of one of the world's leading engineering and professional services firms—WSP. Dedicated to serving local communities, we are engineers, planners, technical experts, strategic advisors and construction management professionals. WSP USA designs lasting solutions in the buildings, transportation, energy, water and environment sectors. With nearly 7,000 people in 100 offices across the U.S., we partner with our clients to help communities prosper.


Pictured, left to right: Delaney Nelson, Nathan Hanson and Patrick Nagle

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