Category Archives: Civil Engineering

The Curse of the Fun Fact: How those Little Talents Save you Major Anxiety

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 7 September 2016

The thing I dread most about the start of a new school year is that horribly, horribly uncomfortable first session of class, or first meeting of a club, when you’re forced to go around in a circle and introduce yourself. You give the basics: name, year, major, focus…then you’re asked to name a fun fact about yourself. Or you’re made to tell what you did over summer. Or you’re asked some other get-to-know-you question that you’ll answer, and immediately move on from.

Any normal person without a fleck of anxiety understands that what you say in that moment doesn’t really matter. It’s not like the group is going to dwell on it for more than five minutes anyway, right? But to anyone with social anxiety—which is most of us nowadays—that moment is the single most torturous event of the next fifty-five minutes and can leave you grasping at words, trying to find something interesting about yourself to share.

I’ve taken to being brutally honest about myself now in my “Fun Fact” sections. I don’t really have hobbies, at least none that I really consider hobbies. Sure, I enjoy reading, but most days I’m too tired to read when I come home. Yes, I like to hike, but I get woozy in the heat so I avoid spending too much time outside in the warmer months. I could say that I have a slight online shopping addiction (okay, not so slight, but my mom could be reading this so I don’t want to admit how bad it really is), but who doesn’t in this day of AmazonStudent?

None of these are particularly pleasant options, as they would lead to a room full of bored, blank faces, and frankly I like to garner a reaction from people. So, I’m blunt. “Yeah, I don’t really have hobbies,” I’ll say. “But, I can walk in seven-inch heels on brick roads.”

Usually, this confession leads to a few stunned faces, maybe a few chuckles, and sometimes even a “Uh, why do you have seven-inch heels?” However, it’s true! The best way out of an uncomfortable Fun Fact situation is to just have a collection of small, odd talents. Whenever I need to think of a factoid on the spot, I have enough to choose from to avoid the anxiety-ridden moment altogether.

And, I’m able to tailor my responses to my crowd. The heels answer is probably impressive to a group of cyclists, but not so much to a room of actors. Maybe, “I can do The Wave with my eyebrows” (demonstration included) is a bit more interesting. Engineers may find “I can make my tongue disappear in my mouth!” more exciting and weird than “I can balance a broom vertically on my pinkie while walking up stairs.”

Really, the moral of this story is that when I got to college, I realized that all of my weird little talents that I had spent my childhood perfecting were actually useful for something: overcoming anxiety! Learn thyself, know thyself, and you shall never have a truly uncomfortable time in the Fun Fact moments of life.

Women’s Leadership Symposium

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 15 April 2016

Waking up at 4 am on a Wednesday sounds like an awful way to start the day, right? Pair that with a four-hour bus ride to the other side of the state, and you’d think that the day is going poorly. Actually, when it involves networking with women in professional leadership positions, it’s not so bad.

I spent my Wednesday at Cleveland State University attending seminars and panel discussions on what it means to be a woman in the workforce, and what we can do to support our sisters in professional growth.

Here’s about how the day went:

4:00 am (Athens): Wake up, eat a small breakfast, get dressed in business professional attire—don’t ask me the difference between business professional and business casual, I probably couldn’t tell you—and try to leave my house on time.

5:30 am: Be late, leave my house in a hurry, and take one step down the hill, purse breaks. Great start to the day. Speed walk to Baker Center to catch the bus that’s supposed to leave at 6, see a bus leave the Baker parking lot, panic, consider going home, decide against that and begrudgingly walk with my head down to the designated meeting place.

5:45 am: Realize that the bus I saw leave was theGoBus, feel embarrassed, stand with the other attendees and wait for the real bus, not saying a word to anyone.

6:00 am: Bus leaves for Cleveland. Commence napping.

9:45 am (Cleveland): Bus pulls up to the Cleveland Public Auditorium. Attendees all pile out of bus, directly go into first session.

10:00 am: Walk in late to a panel discussion on women in male-dominated fields. Listen to testimony from female police chiefs, construction company CEOs, and athletic directors. Feel empowered. Take lots of notes. Scurry off to next seminar.

11:00 am: Arrive early for discussion on LGBTQ rights in Ohio. Realize that Ohio is still very far behind in the fight for equality. Leave feeling motivated.

12:00 pm: Lunch at a table of professional attendees. Discover one is an OU alum. Briefly chat about Athens. Lunchtime keynote speaker begins. Listen to presentation on the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Feel enlightened.

1:30 pm: Keynote speaker ran long, after-lunch sleepiness kicks in. Wander into panel discussion on women in creative fields. Ears perk up at the statement “I graduated in a class of 75% women”. Try to imagine what engineering would be like with 75% women. Leave feeling disconnected and a little jealous.

3:00 pm: Attend discussion on emotional intelligence. Learn so much on emotionally conscious leadership. Decide to implement in everyday life. Leave feeling rushed, but excited.

4:00 pm: Load back up onto bus. Immediately fall asleep. Realize that I’m an 80-year old woman trapped in a 20-year old’s body.

8:00 pm (Athens): Arrive home. Fall back asleep. Too much excitement for me in one day.

It was an interesting event, to say the least. Usually, I attend these kinds of things with at least one person I already know, but this time I decided to roll solo. As a remarkably socially awkward person, this was probably not a good idea. I don’t think I had a conversation that lasted more than two minutes the whole day. But, this allowed me to spend a lot of time sharpening my observation and listening skills.

I did feel a bit disconnected from the other attendees, being one of the only engineers there, but the community was still very strong. I’ll probably try to attend again next year, if possible. Even though it’s not an engineer-focused event, it would have been nice to have an engineering presence there. Maybe it’s an event that SWE would like to partner with, since it’s like a mini-conference. I think that would be a good idea!

Summer Approaches

Robert Parker

Robert Parker,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 13 April 2016

Spring in Athens is my favorite time of the year, but it also is the busiest time of the year. It seems that all of your projects, homework assignments and exams all fall on the same due date. With that being said, I find a way to get through it and make it to summertime, and for this summer I cannot wait for it to get here.

This summer I will be working for E.S. Wagner Company as a superintendent. They are a heavy highway, heavy excavation company that works in Ohio, the surrounding states and in South Carolina. I will be working out in the field supervising the different crews on the job site. For my location this summer, I have not heard the finalized decision but I’m still very excited either way.

This opportunity may have never presented itself if I had gotten involved with organizations during my time here at Ohio University. My organizations have broadened my professional network exponentially and I continue to improve my relationships with professionals daily.

For this particular co-op. I have my organization, The Ohio University Estimating Team, to thank for getting me in contact with E.S. Wagner. Without being involved in that organization I would have never talked with the company. Summer is right around the corner and I cannot wait for it to arrive!!

Teaching About CE in Elementary School

Jordan Sapp

Jordan Sapp,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 21 March 2016

This past week I had the opportunity to help a friend out at a nearby elementary school. My friend is the activity coordinator at The Plains Elementary school after-school program called Kids on Campus. It is a program geared towards helping elementary school students get extra help with their homework in addition to some exploration of things beyond elementary school. I was asked to come in and talk to the kids about Civil Engineering and what I do as a student studying Civil Engineering.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you will know that I really love kids and spending time with them. So, when my friend asked if I could help her, I was more than excited to!

I asked my friend, Praveen, to come along with me to help out with the kids. We got there and had the chance to talk to two groups of students with about 40 students in each group. The first group of students were in grades 4-6 and really surprised me with some of the knowledge they already had! The second group of students was a much younger group with grades 1-3.

Praveen and I presented to them what Civil Engineers do and the different types of Civil Engineering: geotechnical, environmental, structural, transportation, etc. The kids seemed most excited about building things and making sure the buildings wouldn’t fall down on people. It’s always fun to help kids see how Civil Engineers make a difference in everyday life for all people.

After the brief presentation on civil engineering, we broke the kids up into smaller groups and asked them to build the tallest structure out of spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. They were only given three large marshmallows and the rest were small marshmallows. The goal was to get a large marshmallow to the highest point possible!

Building Spaghetti Towers

I was quite impressed with the students’ abilities, even the younger kids. I think the tallest marshmallow out of both groups was about 14 inches.

Building Spaghetti Towers

After the first group was finished, one of the teachers challenged Praveen and myself to beat the kids’ height in only 3 minutes, when the kids were given 20. Praveen and I went for it and reached a height of 21 inches.

Building Spaghetti Towers

The kids were loving it and I was too.

Europe: A Trip to Remember

Robert Parker

Robert Parker,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 11 March 2016

Two years of planning and $50 dollars a week in preparing for this trip and it was a trip of a lifetime. Over spring break this year, myself and three other really good friends of mine took a trip to Europe.

The trip consisted of Ireland, Spain, Germany and Netherlands and totaled up to about 9,500 miles of travel. It was the first time that I had been out of the country (other than Canada) and it was absolutely amazing.

The architecture and old landscape of the European countries were breath taking. It was weird to me to be looking at buildings that were older than our country! Our stops included Heidelberg Castle (below) in Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelberg Castle

This trip started as just a joke one night and then we all realized that it was something that we all wanted to do. I am really glad that I got a chance to do and wouldn’t change a second of it. To experience the different culture, new food and unique social norms was very eye opening.

My favorite part of the trip and most beautiful to me was the Cliffs of Moher in County Claire, Ireland. There is something about being on the edge of a country with the Atlantic Ocean 900 feet below you with no fences in sight.

Cliffs of Moher

Winter Outdoor Recreation Opportunities

Jordan Sapp

Jordan Sapp,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 22 February 2016

“What is there to do on the weekends when you go to Ohio University” you may ask? Well, that is a great question. It is quite often that the weekends call for some time away from the books, spent outside in nature. Ohio University offers some of the best outdoor activities that are not often found at a university.

A few weeks ago, we were hit with an intense blizzard bringing down close to eight inches of snow. Some were snowed in, but my friend Jake and I had different plans. We decided to drive two hours south of campus to ski slopes at a place called Winter Place. We spent the entire day riding up ski lifts and dropping down some great slopes.

Chair Lift

Whenever I get the chance to break out the snowboard, I do not hesitate, but go straight for it. It is really awesome to have a friend like Jake who is so willing to spontaneously hop in the car and head for the hills, literally.

This past weekend, the exact opposite happened with the weather, it was 70 degrees on Friday and Saturday. So, once again I had to take advantage of the awesomeness Ohio University offers in its outdoor options.

My friend Steven and I drove over to Strouds Run State Park, about a five minute drive from campus, and enjoyed the glorious sunshine. We went for a four mile run and then chilled out in our hammocks. The greatest part of the day was while we were walking back from our run, we spotted a Bald Eagle fishing in the lake.

Bald Eagle

It was the first time I have ever seen an eagle in its natural environment. It was such an awesome experience that isn’t offered at any typical university.

Taking time away from studies is one of the most important things to a healthy student lifestyle, it just so happens that Athens has some of my favorite things to do during my breaks!

Heading to DC for Spring Break

Mira Cooper

Mira Cooper,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 21 February 2016

I come from a family of workaholics. I’m pretty sure it’s genetic. My dad didn’t take a vacation day for seven years, my mom was retired for exactly one month before she got bored and got another job. Which makes it very exciting that this year, for what I think is the first time, we’re going on a family vacation for spring break.

Growing up, our idea of a vacation was taking a weekend to visit family in a little rafting town in the mountains of West Virginia. Notice, I said weekend. We were rarely gone for more than three days–my dad was convinced that the entire town of Athens would descend into chaos without him there to hold it together. So we didn’t really travel much. Needless to say, I’m really excited for spring break!

We’re going to go to Huntington, West Virginia (where my sister did her undergrad) on Thursday night to see my dad’s cousin, then Friday morning, we’re going to take the train down to Washington D.C.

First of all, I haven’t been to D.C. since my eighth grade class went, and we had to wear those hideous school shirts so that teachers could tell who was with whom. This is extremely embarrassing for a small town fashionista like me. So, I will be taking every single opportunity on this trip to dress up because HELLO IT’S A BIG CITY AND I DON’T GET TO GO TO THOSE VERY OFTEN.

I guess I should be super sappy and mention that my mom grew up in D.C. and I’ve always wanted to see the setting of all of my favorite stories of her childhood. The story about wearing five-inch platform heels in the park and stepping on a rock, causing her to fall flat on her face in front of all the lunching legislators. The story about her brother skipping school every day for an entire semester to break into their neighbor’s house and play dodgeball with their china plates. (They don’t sound so implausible when you remember that this was the seventies.)

ALSO DID I MENTION THAT WE’RE GOING BY TRAIN?!?! Because I love trains. So much. (I guess that’s the civil engineering side of me.) When I studied abroad in Scotland, I took the train whenever I could. There’s something so beautiful about being able to sit and read a book while travelling 135 mph across gorgeous countryside. Not to mention the sheer aesthetic of the whole situation. I might have to dress like a pre-WWII British schoolboy just to get the full effect of it all.

There’s really no good way to conclude this post, because I would say “There will be pictures!” but I have to submit this by midnight and we haven’t gone on the trip yet…so just imagine in your head a purple-haired girl with pink glasses dressed in Oxford style stepping onto a train with a handheld suitcase, waving goodbye to the Midwest.