Category Archives: Civil Engineering

Fall in Athens

Sean Neff

Sean Neff,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 29 September 2017

Some say the fall leaves in Boston are the sight to see. Yet even though I’m biased, I tend to disagree (rhyme intended).

As the temperature drops and the days get shorter, the weekend exploration in Athens gets even more exciting. One of my favorite parts of going to school here
at Ohio University is the amazing history and scenery of southeast Ohio. The beautiful array of color that covers the hills is something that always stops me on my walks to Stocker Center or the ARC. By the time the weekend rolls around, my itch to explore southeast takes me away from the books and onto the backroads.

One of my favorite places to visit and hike is in Zaleski State Forest just west of Athens in Vinton, County. Zaleski State Forest is home to some of the best hiking trails in Ohio and has a lot of interesting historical places. One of the most frequented places is the Moonville Tunnel, which is an old railroad tunnel that is reportedly home to numerous ghosts. Although I never have seen any ghosts on my trips there, the civil engineer inside of me enjoys examining the
structure of the old tunnel and all of the engineering work that took place for its construction.

Fall semester at OU is also the semester of senior design projects for most civil engineering seniors. For my senior design project, my team and I are designing a complete residential subdivision with roadways, sewers, and lots for homes. The design also includes surveying the topography of a land parcel in Alexandria Township.

Even though senior design takes a lot of my time, the activities and adventure in Athens makes the journey worth it. Just a few hours spent in the wilderness of southeast Ohio takes me away to a time where cars weren’t self-driving and cell phones weren’t the center of our lives. Yet, coming back to school just motivates me even more to create and think outside the box in life!

First Fall in Athens

Nicholas Burton

Nicholas Burton,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 22 September 2017

4 weeks down, 11 to go. These are the kind of thoughts one like myself experiences at this point in the semester, where the joys of “syllabus week” and early semester fun ends and it becomes time to buckle down for the first round of exams.

Ohio State’s loss to Oklahoma has brought some sour feelings to the beginning of the best season in the world, but with that being said, I am really enjoying my first true fall semester in Athens. Last year at this time, I was in Cleveland cheering on the Tribe during my co-op at Soils and Material Engineers and the year before, I was at a different school, so finally I am able to be in Athens for a fall semester. I’ve done all I can to be outside and soak up as much of the nice weather that I can, and it’s nice walking to class in the sun rather than getting wind burn in sub-zero temperatures that come with spring semester in Ohio.

I am actually happy to be back at OU and keeping busy with classes. I was able to enjoy the beach all summer working down in Charleston, SC, but I did miss my home state and it’s good to be back (stay tuned for my next blog post to see if this positive attitude remains the same). I like all of my classes so far this semester and I am ready to keep grinding them out every day and learning as much as I can.

Co-op at Van Rossum Amsterdam

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 9 September 2017

In April 2016, I got in touch with a Dutch company located in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, which is only an hour away from my Dutch hometown. The name of this company is “Van Rossum Raadgevende Ingenieurs” and they are well known for their interesting and sophisticated structural engineering projects.

Likewise, they have received a huge price for their famous project “Hoog Catarijnen” in Utrecht, The Netherlands, for which they have designed the complicated foundation.

Designing the foundation of a Dutch building or bridge is an enormous challenge since the load-bearing soil is mainly below sea-level. This problem has been tackled by the use of piles, which is typical for Dutch engineering and architecture. So, it was challenging for me to apply my American knowledge of engineering to the Dutch projects I have been working on this Summer and in 2016.

I restarted my co-op this May and I was supervised by Senior Structural Engineer Melvin Eschweiler. Consequently, I had the chance to excel myself as an engineer while working at two different projects shown below:

Zeeburgeiland, Amsterdam

The City Garden, Van Heuven Goedhartlaan, Amstelveen

During these projects, I was privileged to expand my knowledge of the steel reinforcement bars within a concrete structure. Similarly, I had to draw the diameters, lengths, and the center to center properties of the steel bars on the floor plans, cross sections, and front views. To accomplish this, I had to use the newest software of AutoCAD (2017).

Because of the two projects and their tasks mentioned above, I had the ability to get used to the real engineering world. I had to work with a multidisciplinary team of all ages and academic levels. This was not as challenging as I expected, since I am used to working in teams because of my background as a field hockey player on the Ohio University Field Hockey squad.

Furthermore, because of this student athlete fact I am used to work under pressure with lots of deadlines every single day. Hence, my colleagues were happy with me as their companion and the collaboration with all of them went very smoothly.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of my co-op experience I had some trouble with the software. I had not used AutoCAD for over a year so I had forgotten most of the keys to make quick drawings. Luckily, my colleagues were patient with me and they explained me everything I had questions about despite their busy schedules.

Fortunately, I have worked a lot with AutoCAD 2012 during my freshman year, so at least I remembered the fundamentals of the software to get started eventually. Thus, my field hockey background has surprisingly helped me a lot during this co-pp and this experience will therefore help me in the classroom too.

The Bittersweet Time that is the End of Spring Semester

Rob Parker

Rob Parker,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 24 April 2017

It’s the time, yet again, in Athens Ohio where the cherry trees are blooming, deadlines are approaching, final exams are being administered and longtime friends are saying their farewells. Yes, spring semester here in Athens is always a bittersweet feeling.

Over the last four years I have had the pleasure of meeting some of the most influential people, participating in outstanding organizations and partaking in opportunities of a lifetime. At the end of this week, I will be saying goodbye to many of my friends and wishing them the best of luck in all of their future endeavors.

Though I will be returning in the fall for one final semester, it feels as if I’m leaving this university at the end of this semester. I have wrapped up the majority of my classes making it so I only have two classes remaining; I have stepped down from all leadership positions within all of my student organizations; and as I mentioned, a good majority of my friends from the last four years are graduating in just a few days.

This is the first time in my life that I am beginning to look at my future and make decisions on a career instead of schooling. With that being said, I couldn’t be more excited to be finishing up and I feel that my experiences over the past four years have prepared me for my career in Civil Engineering.

I am starting a co-op with Shelly and Sands this week and will work for them this summer and continue through the upcoming fall semester. I was lucky enough to land on a project that is located right here in Athens making the transition from school to my co-op a breeze. This summer and through the fall semester will be a test run, for me, of Shelly and Sands to see if I like the company and if the company likes me.

So as I start my new co-op experience, finish my final exams and bid a farewell to all of the graduating seniors I can’t help but be reminded that time certainly does move fast. So as my last blog post ever as an Engineering Ambassador, to all of the graduating seniors: I wish you the best of luck and congratulations on this monumental accomplishment; and for all of you incoming first year students: welcome and good luck with the next 4 to 5 years!

What the Heck is a “Study Aesthetic” and Where Can I Get One?

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 3 April 2017

One of the most important things anyone will ever learn in college—besides how many credit hours is too many credit hours—is what their very own study aesthetic is. I’m going to refer to it as an “aesthetic” for two reasons. The first being that “aesthetic” is my favorite word of all time. The second being that I’ve found that the only way to really and truly convince myself to do something I see as unpleasant is to turn it into something unnecessarily dramatic (or as the kids call it, “extra”).

Your very own study aesthetic can say a lot about you, and can be one of the most fun self-discoveries you’ll have in these four years. However, it can also be horribly stressful because you won’t even notice that you’re searching for it. You’ll just know that something you’re doing isn’t working, and it just doesn’t feel right.

My entire freshman year, I tried so hard to be a library studier—on the top floor of Alden, surrounded by bookshelves filled with information you can easily find with one simple Google search. It felt…forced. It felt fake. I wasn’t learning anything that I hadn’t learned in class or recitation, so I found myself getting frustrated when I wasn’t making any progress.

My sophomore year, I tried to be a dorm studier. This was easier in my quiet sophomore dorm than in my rowdy freshman dorm, so I thought I was making progress in my setup. But there was still something missing.

My junior year, I became a coffeehouse studier. It was like the clouds parted and the choirs started singing! Not really, because that would be horribly distracting. I realized that it wasn’t just a room with light background noise that I needed, it was an entire environment. An environment with a history.

Coffeehouses have been the place of academic, social, and intellectual interaction since their inception. In the beginning, they were a place where natural and social scientists of all economic classes could meet to discuss ideas. They were where pivotal friendships such as that of Edmond Halley and Isaac Newton were formed. I learned that for me, I need that history of innovation to work well. I need the feeling of coziness to surround me while I work on a foundations engineering project, or else I won’t be productive. Even as I’m writing this, I’m sitting on the second floor of Donkey Coffee—a local coffeehouse—with a tall glass of lavender/peppermint soda.

Now, Donkey Coffee may not be the best place for everyone. Many engineering students that I’ve met feel they absolutely cannot work outside of the ARC (Academic and Research Center), and some have said that they can’t study anywhere other than one specific study room in the library.

So, as you go on your journey through college looking for your productivity sweet-spot, remember that no two people are alike. And remember that the location is not the only variable you need to consider. You may need a specific drink, a specific type of music, a certain feeling to the place you’re about to settle into. You may do your best work in the gym, surrounded by the smell of sweat and the clink of weights returning to their shelves. You may work best in a restaurant, with bustling waitstaff bringing plates of fries to the table next to you. All I can say is that you’re going to feel so much better when you finally find the setting that works for you.

Spring Break Road Trip

Rob Parker

Rob Parker,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 17 March 2017

As most people know, when spring semester rolls around every student is thinking of their spring break plans. Students tend to gravitate towards a destination in Florida or somewhere south, with the main stipulation being that the location has to be warm and sunny. Many of these spring break trips are planned far in advance and some not so much.

This was the case for my most recent and final spring break of my college career. Myself and five of my best friends decided on a whim (2 weeks before spring break) that we were going to take a cross country trip in just 8 days with the turnaround point being the West Coast.

Spring Break Trip

We traveled a total of 5,100 miles, passed through 9 states and saw some of the most breath taking sites along the way. We started from Athens, Ohio and made it to the Santa Barbara Boardwalk at the end of the historic Route 66.

Spring Break Trip

Along the way we stopped in Denver, Colorado; Pike’s Peak, Four Corners, The Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, Hollywood and Beverly Hills. On the way back we saw The Hoover Dam and stopped in Las Vegas for a night.

Spring Break Trip

I got to see things in person on this trip that I’ve only ever seen in pictures and to me that was awesome. We traveled many miles and spent a lot of hours cooped up in a minivan and surprisingly enough, we never got tired of each other’s presence. I’ve been fortunate enough to have met some great people with my time at school and I’m glad that I can take random trips with them.

The Estimating Competition

Rob Parker

Rob Parker,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 22 February 2017

“Most importantly, take a deep breath, lighten up and HAVE FUN!”

As engineers, specifically civil, many of our projects tend to deal with infrastructure and as you may already be familiar with these projects get very expensive. With that being said, once a project is designed it goes out for bid, meaning many different contracting companies bid how much they think it will cost to build the project. Then, the lowest bidding company wins the project.

For the past three years I have been involved in the Estimating Competition, which is hosted by the Ohio Contractors Association (OCA) and this past weekend (Feb 17-18) Ohio University competed once again. As the name of the competition may give away, the main purpose of this competition is to estimate how much it’s going to cost to construct a certain project.

There are 11 schools that participate in this competition and the grand prize for the winning team is $3,000. The estimating portion of the competition occurs on a Friday where you have 8 hours to estimate the job and then on Saturday you present your project to the judges. The cool part about this competition is that the project that is provided for the schools to bid has already or is currently being built.

Even though the 8-hour estimating portion of the competition is a high-stress environment the competition as a whole is very beneficial. You are not only getting exposure to blue prints and how to navigate through them, but you are also surrounded by potential employers the entire time. I’ve received two co-op opportunities alone just through this competition.

OU 2017 Estimating Team

Even though we didn’t win this year, I still had a blast and if this wasn’t my last year of college, I would definitely compete next year. There are many hidden opportunities that come with being involved in an organization/competition and the estimating competition is just one example.