The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 27, 2014

Engineering students dream, design big

MSU students planned projects for passenger rail, Mount Kato renovation

Imagine a passenger rail that connected the Twin Cities to Mankato, making those late-night concerts in the Metro seem a little easier to get to.

Imagine if Mount Kato was a year-round resort with a nice hotel and restaurant, among other things.

Two teams of about a dozen civil engineering students spent an entire academic year at Minnesota State University doing a lot more than imagining those two projects. They conceptualized, studied and planned them, including transportation patterns, structures, geotechnical (soil and foundation), hydrological, environmental implications, and total overall costs.

It's important to point out that the undergraduate students' work was not contracted. As of yet, their reports and findings will not be taken up and implemented by the city of Mankato or the owners of Mount Kato, said one of the students' professors, Stephen Druschel.

“We don't want to compete with the engineering community,” Druschel said. “The last thing we want to do is take work from them.”

Instead, as with every other capstone project, the students aim to inspire Greater Mankato organizations and businesses to consider the possibilities that their projects present. And many times, Druschel said, they do just that.

On the first day of fall semester, Druschel presented the two projects to students, and they split into their teams. Tyler Conley and Riley Dvorak were assigned as project managers for the rail project and Mount Kato project, respectively.

Conley's team's project was based on a state and city plan already hatched for using the Union Pacific corridor between Mankato and the Twin Cities for a passenger rail.

“Our project centered around, 'Where do you put the depot for passengers to get on and off, as well as how do you find space to accommodate that many vehicles or that much traffic into and out of Mankato?” Conley said.

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