Category Archives: Civil Engineering

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.

False Dichotomies of Numbers and Art

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 9 February 2017

There seems to be a very hurtful division in education. We’ve heard it in so many different forms that we don’t even notice it anymore. “Numbers” people vs. “Art” people. Left-brained vs. right-brained. Logic vs. emotion.

When I was young, I convinced myself that I would never understand artistic people, that I’d never understand those who put emotion before fact. When I was in high school, I hated my “soft” classes like English and History because I felt that engineers don’t need to know about literature or the humanities. I thought that to be successful, an engineer just needed to spend their time buried in Excel spreadsheets and complex equations (not that I’ve ever been particularly adept with either of those, but that’s a story for another day). I’d convinced myself that once I was surrounded by only engineers, no one would care about Macbeth or Boo Radley or the mad emperors of ancient Rome. As a result, I never really cultivated any hobbies or non-academic outlets to widen my worldview. Numbers were everything.

Recently, I was told by one of my bosses that I “don’t write like an engineer.” The implication being that engineers have a difficult time communicating and telling a proper narrative that makes readers want to hear what’s being said. However, I feel that that mindset refers to the stereotypical engineers of the past—the engineers that my high-school self idolized.

Today’s engineers are realizing that to truly function and make a difference in the world, we need to be well-rounded. We need to see more viewpoints than just our own. I never really thought much about how greatly the humanities affect engineering, but once I made friends with psychologists and anthropologists, and they encouraged me to start doing my own research, a whole new world opened up.

I started seeing that the average person (you know, the people whose lives we aim to improve) doesn’t want to read a report filled with data presented in Times New Roman font. If that’s the way all engineering reports are being written, we may as well give up now because no one will be reading them.

People want to read something with a hook, they respond well to stories. I found that it is in fact possible to report logistic information in a way that doesn’t put people to sleep—crazy, right? I guess that’s why I “don’t write like an engineer.”

Now, in my first sentence I brought in that this is a division in education. I haven’t talked much about it yet, but I hope that you as a reader can tell where I’m going with this. I didn’t learn any of this in class. Not in high school, not even in college. I learned this through my interactions with other people outside of the engineering world. I learned this by reading those books that I groaned about in high school.

It may seem counterintuitive at first, but engineers need that exposure to literature to learn to write like real people, not computers. We need to learn our life lessons from fictional characters and their authors. We need to learn how to tell our story, even if that story is all data.

On Procrastination, Inspiration, and a Lightning Bolt

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 6 January 2017

This blog post is very late. Very late. It was supposed to be turned in mid-Fall semester, and here I am, winter break winding to a close, just now beginning to write it. Procrastination afflicts so many college students, and it’s not something considered interesting to read about, but hear me out. Procrastination has its reasons and it can be conquered.

The reason I spend so long pushing off writing my blog posts is simple: writer’s block. Like many people, I believe that in order to write you need to be inspired. Mediocre writing is dull, inspired writing shines like the top of the Chrysler building. But when you think about it, how many pearls of wisdom are buried in the minds of people who sit around and wait for a lightning bolt? What great work of fiction is being delayed in the hopes of a chance encounter with a muse? Sometimes, as a writer, you have to wade through the dull, uninspired writing that comes from necessity to find the shining gem of an idea that leads to a brilliant, wonderful, perfect, magnum opus that you’ll be proud to share on Facebook.

How does this relate to my experience as a college student you ask? I’ve often told myself, “I can’t work on my Structural Theory homework now, I’m not in the right mindset to think like that yet.” This is a type of inspiration-based procrastination. By saying this, my hope is that later I’ll be struck with the sudden urge to calculate bending moments and analyze trusses. Let me assure you that that never happens. But it allows me to not feel guilty about reorganizing my closet for the third time or going out to dinner with my roommate instead of sitting down to do the unpleasant thing. The trouble comes when it’s 11 pm the night before the assignment is due and I’m still chugging away at those problems I could have resolved four days ago if I’d just told myself that inspiration wasn’t going to come knocking.

The reason I’m writing this post is to tell myself along with the rest of cyberspace to stop kidding yourself. Whether what you’re putting off is homework or writing your novel, it’s not going to get any easier the longer you wait. You just need to sit down and force yourself through it. No gimmicks, no tricks, just write. Write for five minutes. Write for ten. You’ll find it gets easier as you go. It doesn’t have to be good, just get started. You can always go back and fix your mistakes later. You can’t, however, fix what doesn’t exist.

Quiet Campus

Rob Parker

Rob Parker,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 15 December 2016

If you were to take a walk through campus during the winter break, the place would remind you of a ghost town from a movie. The buildings are empty, the courtyards are quiet and people are able to drive around without getting held up at a crosswalk.

Less than a week ago, though, the scene on campus was far different. There were large amounts of people wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts, coffee shops couldn’t keep enough coffee brewed and people had forgotten what a bed was. Don’t fret though, every year the students make it through to see another semester and this past week was another example of this.

So what am I doing over break? For the most part I’m working on campus for the Department of Housing and Residence Life and I’m also relaxing. But the thing that I’m looking most forward to is skiing! Through my multitude of years here on campus I have picked up some new hobbies and skiing is one of them.

I was introduced to the sport my freshman year by one of my friends and I’ve loved it ever since. I’ve been to Mad River and Snow Trails multiple times but I enjoy the longer trips that we get to take to Holiday Valley, Snow Shoe and Seven Springs. Liking to ski or snowboard comes with another perk–making winter bearable, because the more snow we get, the better the skiing gets!