Mark Costa, a UMass Dartmouth senior civil engineering major from Reading, is the first place winner of the regional Daniel W. Mead Student Contest sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Student Chapter.
Costa earned the $200 cash prize for his paper and presentation on "Eminent Domain and the Engineer's Ethical Responsibilities," topping competitors from 13 other universities including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and runners up Universite Laval and University of Connecticut.
The event was held at the University of Connecticut in mid March. Costa's winning paper will now be judged at the national level with the five best essays recognized, according to Dr. Christos Papakonstantinou, UMass Dartmouth ASCE chapter advisor.
"The Daniel Mead competition is the most significant paper contest for civil engineering students across the nation," said Dr. John Finnie, department chairperson. "We're very proud of Mark's achievement as the writer of the best paper in the Northeast and we wish him well as he competes against the other regional winners."
Costa said that it took him approximately one week to write the essay, which focused on the four towns eliminated from Massachusetts to build the Quabbin Reservoir in the 1930s. "I decided to concentrate on the Quabbin because it is the perfect example of the use of eminent domain for the good of the community (serves 2.2 million people and 5,500 businesses), but also with severe and terrible social impacts, the elimination of the four towns," he said.
In his essay, Costa emphasized the importance of an engineer's objectivity and ethical standards when working on any project.
"Engineers face ethical issues every day, ranging from wetlands disturbance to eminent domain. What should always remain constant in making these ethical decisions is our objectivity. That objectivity will allow engineers to come up with the most efficient, safe, cost effective design with the least amount of social disturbance possible," he wrote.
"It's almost impossible not to negatively affect somebody with a project, whether it's expanding a road or creating a reservoir. What's important is that every design is considered, not just for creating efficiency or reducing costs, but of the social impacts of the project."
Costa will graduate in May. He is particularly interested in the fields of environmental engineering and water resources within the major. His long-range goals include attending graduate school on a part-time basis.
The contest was established in 1939 by Mead, a former ASCE president and honorary member.
Author: "Susan Gonsalves"
Submitted by: Antonio Costa
Department: College Of Engineering