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Reinventing the Wheel

Saturday, June 13, 2015 - 16:13

Amid the end of the school year rush, with Gauchos wrapping up finals, preparing for Commencement and packing for the next move, several students from the UC Santa Barbara College of Engineering took some time to leave their mark in the form of a new waterwheel in Anisq ‘Oyo Park in Isla Vista.

New mechanical engineering graduates Grant Draper, Greg Allinson, Talia Barth, Megan Chang, Nathan Nakamura, Sione Song, Camille Sasaki, Garret Smally and Matthew Martineau have lent their considerable expertise to replace the wooden wheel, built to aerate the pond at the southwest corner of the park and contribute to the health of the fish, ducks and other urban wildlife that call the pond home.

“The reason I wanted to do this project is because I think it’s really cool that we’re putting something back into Isla Vista,” said Allinson. While many students come and go throughout their time at UCSB, this was an opportunity for the group to use their powers for good, he added.

The timing couldn’t have been better: In the wake of the tragic shooting a year ago in Isla Vista, both the campus and the seaside community were looking for ways to come together to heal and move forward. After meetings between the UCSB Academic Senate and representatives from the Isla Vista Parks and Recreation District, the idea of replacing the broken wheel and rescuing the apparatus from decrepitude was born. Computer science professor Tim Sherwood, mechanical engineering professor Glenn Beltz and the students quickly jumped on board.

Taking down the old wheel and building and installing a new waterwheel proved no easy feat. The wheel was perched over a tight, roughly five-foot (four-foot under non-drought conditions) sloping apron of concrete. It was the widest area the students had to work in as they dismantled the old wheel and assembled the new one. One misstep and they’d be swimming with the ducks.

“The process was amazing,” said Sherwood. “Glenn Beltz was able to find a group of really wonderful students and they really took ownership of the project and saw it all the way through.”

After two quarters, countless hours of design and fabrication, the occasional wet shoe and a whole afternoon wrestling the very last section into the wheel, the students completed their project just a few days shy of graduation. For many members of the Isla Vista community, this will be their first time seeing the waterwheel in action.

The completed waterwheel is the culmination of major effort and time contributed to the community. However, the students walk away with something as well: experience upon which they can draw when heading into the wider world and undertaking bigger and more ambitious projects.

“A great team will make any project possible and we definitely had a great team here,” said Draper, the student leader of this project. “The positivity of everyone helped us get through it. There were times when things got difficult and we still pushed through.”

More information about the waterwheel project can be found at http://engineering.ucsb.edu/news/851.

commencement 2015mechanical engineeringwaterwheel