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Senior Design Project Puts Historic Springhouse Restoration in National Spotlight

Charlie Cianciolo and Matthew Howard stand in front of a crowd, presenting at WEFTEC.

Charlie Cianciolo (left) and Matthew Howard (right) present at WEFTEC.


The restoration of the historic Baker Creek Springhouse was the focus of a senior design project for a trio of students from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the 2018-19 school year.

Now, two of those students—Charlie Cianciolo and Matthew Howard—are pursuing their masters in the department and extending the project’s scope in the process

They recently presented findings at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition Conference (WEFTEC) in Chicago, displaying the project, “Baker Creek Springhouse Restoration,” at the largest annual water quality exhibition in the world.

“Our project was open-ended and allowed Charlie and I to design with our own vision in mind,” said Howard.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about this project was how we were able to apply basic concepts and equations we learned in our coursework to the project design. Most of the design was able to be completed using basic civil engineering principles, and it was neat to see these principles applied in an actual design scenario.”

—Charlie Cianciolo

The project provided improvements to a dilapidated springhouse near the entrance to a highly used community space. The historic spring drained into Baker Creek, but the area had poor aesthetic quality, being covered in weeds, mud, and bricks.

Students partnered with the local nonprofit, Legacy Parks, to make their innovative design more attractive and livable, improve water quality by mitigating stormwater runoff, and to preserve a clean water source.

The team had previously presented their conclusions from their senior design project with Senior Lecturer Jennifer Retherford, their advisor, and at the Kentucky-Tennessee Water Professionals Conference (WPC), which served as a rehearsal for the national event.

Stefanie Farrell with LDA Engineering is the Tennessee Delegate for the Water Environment Association and provided outside support by recruiting regional judges for the presentation, who served as mentors to the team and prepared them for the competition. Farrell also ensured that there was a contingent of locals present in the audience at the national WEFTEC event to show their support.

Group of students, faculty, and advisors at WEFTEC.

Group at WEFTEC.

Overall, Retherford said that all of the teams are producing high-quality work.

“Ultimately, the network developed in our region for students moving through this competition is incredibly strong, and the students do feel that support,” she said. “UT is in the mix, and I’m proud to see that we are creating senior design experiences of similar caliber to very strong engineering programs.”

Next year’s team members, Sean Lee, Caroline Stephens, Emma Parks, and Kadee Kilmowicz also traveled with Howard and Cianciolo to receive mentorship.

Retherford says that the 2020 team is in a great position to understand the high caliber of competition to carry on the top tier legacy of this competition.