Monday, July 15, 2013

SRAP Student Spotlight: Antonio, Water Issues and Mathematics

SRAPer: Antonio Duran

Home State: Colorado

Year on School: Junior

Plans after high school: Attend college and major in architectural engineering

Jagath (left) and Antonio working on field notes

Unlike many of his high school peers, Antonio’s favorite subject is math. Studying water is not exactly what he had in m

ind when he enrolled in SRAP, but his interests in math are being applied to water in a way he never anticipated.

“We are going to put small dams in streams near Laramie in order to better calculate discharge for the summer months,” Antonio says.

Antonio is in charge of building this dam, called a weir.

“The goal is to learn how to engineer weirs,” Antonio says. “I’m interested in engineering. The most interesting part of the project is the designing process and getting to talk to everybody.”

Antonio taking measurements in a stream
Antonio’s project is part of the bigger WyCEHG project. Along with his mentor, Dr. Scott Miller, Antonio has had the opportunity to work with several WyCEHG researchers in and out of the field. In the early stages of the project, he helped take flow measurements with WyCEHG PhD student Jagath Vithanage, researched weir structure and created engineering designs to be built by the manufacturing lab in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

“The weirs will help us better understand the characteristics of flows in small streams in Wyoming,” says Dr. Miller. “We have been studying these streams for a few years and have been limited in our ability to characterize stream flow in the summer because of our instrumentation. I am extremely pleased with both how well Antonio has done on his project and the fact that his weirs will be of benefit to many scientists today and in the future.”

After his weir designs were built, Antonio and Jagath installed them in several of the creeks around Pole Mountain between Laramie and Cheyenne.

“Antonio’s designs were spot-on,” says Jagath. “He took charge of the specifications, calculated the dimensions, and worked with the engineering shop to make sure the weirs were constructed properly.” 

With the weirs in place, the next stage in the project is to really put Antonio’s math skills to use. The data from automated samplers will be transformed into discharge measurements using the weir equations Antonio developed.

“Antonio is going use his interest and skill in mathematics to help us calculate streamflow automatically from devices we leave in the field,” says Dr. Miller. “This way we can know what is happening around the clock and better understand the system. Anotnio’s participation in the research has been a huge help.”

While the connection between math and water wasn’t immediately clear at the start of his project, it has given Antonio a great experience with applying math to real-world problems.

“I think SRAP is a really great program and it is a great experience to be here,” says Antonio. “It’s nice to see how it is to really research and how life is in college.”

SRAP is a six-week long intensive research program based at the University of Wyoming and sponsored by Wyoming EPSCoR.

By Kali S. McCrackin
Photos by Robin E. Rassmussen and Kali S. McCrackin

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