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FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Alumnae Awarded for Work Restoring Cypress Spring

Story by
Sue Mullins
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Pictured from left to right: Lindsey Furrow, Jennifer Magi, FAMU-FSU College of Engineering Dean Murray Gibson, Abigail Burns, Caroline Wells. Not Pictured: Maria Leal-Bruce (on Zoom) (Photo: FAMU-FSU Engineering/M Wallheiser)

Five female students win Nestlé Waters prize

The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and local community partners recently recognized five young female alumnae for their work in designing a more sustainable Cypress Spring. On March 4th—during the first week of Women’s History Month—the students were acknowledged by Nestlé Waters and the NW Florida Water Management District on the College of Engineering campus.

In the spring term of 2020, three environmental engineering students—Jennifer Magi, Lindsey Furrow and Abigail Burns, teamed up with two civil engineering students—Caroline Wells and Maria Leal-Bruce to create a senior engineering project in Professor O. Sean Martin’s class. 

For their project, the group decided to enter Nestlé Waters’ design contest, which called for proposals on how to restore the shoreline and improve the access infrastructure of Cypress Spring in Vernon, Florida.

“Cypress Spring has an average of 200 visitors a day,” said Brett Cyphers, executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. “This foot traffic has caused heavy bank erosion, eroded shorelines, and a dilapidated boardwalk. Cypress Spring also has a problem with poor stormwater management and tannic water input. Cypress Spring was in need of a sustainable makeover, and the FAMU-FSU engineering students created exactly what we were looking for.”

The team used their collective engineering expertise to suggest significant improvements to the springs’ park area. Their designs included new public access points to control shoreline erosion, construction of a sustainable vault toilet to divert nutrients from contaminating the water table, and a creek diversion design so a segmental box culvert containing pipe junctions will divert tannic water from Cypress Creek.

“The work these students created is outstanding,” said Kent Koptiuch, natural resource manager for Nestlé Waters. “You often don’t see this caliber of work until years into an engineer’s career. The fact that all five of these women just graduated from college is a testament to the excellence of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering program, its instructors, and, of course, the hard work of these students.”

To thank the team for their winning proposal, Nestlé Waters gave each of the five students a $1,000 check. Additionally, Nestlé Waters is donating $10,000 to the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. 

“This award money is an investment in our future,” explained Koptiuch. “We see the talent that comes from FAMU and FSU and all the universities in the state, and we want to invest in that. We know these bright young minds will be the future leaders in sustainability and environmental stewardship, tasked with tackling tough environmental problems, and we want to make sure they are as prepared as they can be.”

Having graduated in 2020, these five women continue to make waves as they start their careers. Magi now works full-time as a water resources engineer at Kimley-Horn and Associates in West Palm Beach. Wells is currently pursuing a master's degree in structural and geotechnical engineering at the University of Central Florida. Furrow works full-time with the engineering consulting firm Atkins in Orlando. Burns is pursuing a career in water resource engineering and working full-time at Wade Trim, a Civil Engineering, Planning, and Surveying firm in Tampa, and Leal-Bruce is a full-time project manager for the construction company Alberici, and her first project involved restoring the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.