Relating the Classroom to the Real World

Robert Parker

Robert Parker,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 2 September 2015

With classes again in full swing and all the students back on campus, it feels like summer break was so long ago. This past summer I had the opportunity to work a co-op session with Kokosing Construction Company working in their heavy highway division. This was not my first job, but it was my first “technical” co-op.

I was located in Bowling Green, Ohio working on I-75. Our section of the highway construction was nine miles long and consisted of four bridge replacements and adding a third lane to both northbound and southbound sides. I worked directly with the project engineer doing take-off quantities; tracking and ordering materials; and completing erosion control inspections, force accounts, change orders and much more.

During the first part of my co-op I was kind of frustrated with the tasks that were being assigned to me. I felt more like an accountant than a civil engineer. None of my tasks consisted of structural analysis, differential equations, physics or any of the classes that I’ve worked so hard to pass. But that’s when I realized, that’s one of the purposes of a co-op. The theory is meant to be learned in the classroom and the reality is meant to be learned in the field. They go hand-in-hand. Even though it wasn’t obvious at the time, I still was used some of the things I had learned from classroom in the field. I still had to do calculations and most importantly I had to use my engineering mind to find a solution to an issue and then find out where the funding was coming from.

Back at school and in classes, I can see what I learned in the field coming up all the time in my classes. I understand blueprints, I understand the language and I can visualize the sequencing of the job.

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