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Engineering Students Face Trash and Sanitation Issues

Matt Pierson hands trash bag to female student during fall 2021 clean up.
Matt Pierson hands trash bag to female student during fall 2021 clean up.

Volunteer efforts give students real-world experience.

People make trash. In an ideal world, much of it would be recycled and none of it would threaten the environment.

But proper systems must be in place to protect public health and improve sustainable solutions.

“Engineers work to build things as safely and efficiently as possible,” said Dr. Matt Pierson, Mace/Turblex engineering professor at Missouri State University. “But they also are on the forefront of designing sanitation systems.”

Through regular volunteer excursions, Pierson gives his students opportunities to see how engineers can directly impact communities.

The MSU student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers adopted a section of Jordan Creek five years ago. The group now regularly hosts clean up days.

The stream collects a lot of trash from downtown Springfield, noted Pierson.

“As civil engineers, one of the things we try to do is trap trash, so here we have a real laboratory where there are all of these different things that trap trash,” he said.

Pierson lists things like an old, cracked foundation and vegetation.

“The students learn about how the surfaces interface with the flow of trash and water.”

The students are also confronted with city planning and societal issues – like homelessness and waste removal from homeless communities.

Pierson also challenged his students to get involved in the Dirt66 project. This is the development of a series of mountain bike trails near Fellows Lake.

His students built a bridge out of solely recycled materials.

“It’s a sustainable project and we hope it’s out there for many years.”

Learn about the expansion of engineering at MSU

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Nicki received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Business Administration from Missouri State in marketing, in 2002 and 2004 respectively. After gaining experience in writing, marketing, special event planning, fundraising and public relations, she returned to the university to work in the office of strategic communication. There she tells the university’s story by sharing the stories of individuals at Missouri State.