Category Archives: Civil Engineering

Finally Done with Senior Design

Sean Neff

Sean Neff,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 10 December 2017

This semester was by far the longest 15 weeks of my life. What do I have to thank for this grueling yet empowering struggle? My senior design project of course!

In Civil Engineering, we have the choice of taking three different types of senior design classes. In the fall, there is Land Development senior design. In the spring, there is Environmental/Water senior design and Structural senior design. Because I am interested in transportation, planning, and municipal engineering, the Land Development senior design was the best choice for me.

The overall concept of the class is to design and plan a housing subdivision complete from the initial surveying to the completed utility and grading plans.

In my opinion, this class is the class where you will learn the most Civil Engineering topics out of any class in the curriculum. Over the course of 15 weeks, I learned how to:

  • do a topographic survey of 30 acres of land
  • plan and design roadways with horizontal and vertical curves
  • grade out existing land to make it usable for homes
  • plan out storm sewer, sanitary sewer, and water main utility lines
  • design a detention basin with correct drainage plans

…and a whole lot more which would take up way too much time to

For the first time ever in a college class, it finally felt like I was being an engineer. To go from nothing to a complete design with all the bells and whistles was something so amazing to be a part of. It wasn’t without mistakes, which my group made a fair amount of. But it was from these mistakes in our design that allowed us to learn the most.

At the end of the class, we presented our design to a panel of 10 professional engineers. They all had specialties they used in their real-world engineering jobs and were able to comment on all of our plans and designs. Even though presenting to them was nerve racking, their input was awesome and it was great to hear comments from veteran engineers.

Even though I wouldn’t recommend taking senior design with 19 credit hours and being the head of two large organizations, it was the biggest learning experience of my college career. The skills I learned with surveying and AutoCAD I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I definitely feel ready to take on the real world now.

Wrapping up the Semester

Nicholas Burton

Nicholas Burton,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 1 December 2017

Finals week is almost upon us. Thanksgiving Break was a nice little taste of the things to come for Winter Break and the end of the semester—just have to get through these next two weeks.

This semester has definitely been full of ups and downs, and it has given me an idea of a curriculum path to take while I finish up at OU with taking a path of land development. I tailored my schedule next semester to this path and I am very excited to learn more in depth of what all it has to offer.

I recently accepted an offer to intern at the company I was at the previous summer, Seamon Whiteside in Mt. Pleasant, SC. This has lifted a huge weight off of my chest, as it’s just one less thing to worry about now. If anything, it provides extra motivation to keep grinding and finish up school when I am supposed to. I hope to continue on with some of the projects I worked on last summer and gain more knowledge in my field of interest.

The fate of this upcoming weekend lies in the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes. A win Saturday in the B1G championship and a potential college football playoff berth would be a great start to “Finals Week”. Go Bucks!

Chicks with Sticks

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 18 November 2017

My home country, the Netherlands, is very well known for its sports such as soccer and field hockey. Unfortunately, Dutch sports are not affiliated with universities like in American sports. At home, we represent a sports club and not a high school or university. For this reason, it is challenging for Dutch students to excel athletically as well as academically.

Combining sports and academics at the same place sounded ideal for me. When I became aware of this big part of the American college life, I decided to look into transferring to an American university. Now I am happy to say I am living the American dream thanks to Ohio University’s Field Hockey (OUFH) program as well as the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.

Ohio University Field Hockey

I made the decision to transfer in the summer of 2015 and I immediately felt at home while wandering around the beautiful green campus of Ohio University. Playing a college sport is very beneficial for international students because we automatically gain 20+ sisters.

Over the years, my teammates—as well as my engineering friends—have become my family away from home. It is very special to realize how sports brings people together and creates strong relationships which are not limited by international borders. For example, OUFH currently represents five nationalities to compete at the highest collegiate level in the United States of America.

Ohio University Field Hockey

When we come in as freshman field hockey players, we start our collegiate career during preseason in the summer. Preseason usually lasts about two weeks and consists of multiple practices. These practices can range from one a day up to three, each lasting about two or three hours. After we get used to playing together, we play one or two scrimmages before our season starts at the end of August.

Ohio University Field Hockey

During the season, we sometimes play three games a week. Normally, we play about eighteen games a season which consists of roughly ten or more away games. This means we get to travel a lot with the team! Traveling with the team has definitely been one of my best OU experiences so far and it contributes to our strong relationships. For example, we got to visit New York City my sophomore year and we traveled to North Carolina my junior year.

Ohio University Field Hockey

On top of the games, we also practice 4-5 times a week depending on our game schedule. In the past three years, we have always had Mondays off for our required day off. Then, we would have lifting from 7:30 am till 8:30 am on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In addition, we practice from 2:00 pm ill 5:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday—except for game days, of course.

Ohio University Field Hockey

Unfortunately, our 2017 season ended at the end of October and we are now lifting and running for up to eight hours a week max. I am really excited to start playing field hockey again this winter break at home and with the OUFH team in spring. Things will definitely be different because the Ohio Athletic Department recently hired a new head coach: Ali Johnstone. She is a former Bobcat standout and member of the Kermit Blosser Ohio Athletics Hall of Fame which makes me really excited about all new athletic challenges in the near future!

Ohio University Field Hockey

Go Bobcats!

Adopting a New Best Friend

Sean Neff

Sean Neff,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 5 November 2017

When someone asks, “What’s the one thing you miss most about home?” My answer from freshman year all the way to senior year remained the same: “I miss my dog.” It’s a common answer from a lot of college students. Yet, because I lived in the dorms for Air Force ROTC for three years, I was never able to get the chance to adopt my own new best friend to remedy my home-dog-sickness.

Now in my senior year, I live in an apartment complex that is dog-friendly…so I was finally able look at adopting dogs from the local shelters.

It was a long process, looking at all the options available for adopting a new best friend. There were so many amazing dogs that were fun and had such great personalities. On a beautiful October weekend, I took a trip to a rescue shelter just south of Athens. They had over 50 dogs at the shelter, a lot of which were rescues from the southern part of the country due to the hurricanes earlier this fall.

The shelter workers took me to see all of the dogs, but right before we were going to leave, they showed me one more room. In that room was a happy and smiling black Labrador retriever named Molly. After we took her out of her pen, I knew immediately that this dog was the one. She was so full of life and energy. I had to take her home that day, and I did.


Her story is quite remarkable as well. She is a survivor of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, being pulled out of the flood waters by rescue workers. After her owners couldn’t be found, she traveled the 17-hour car ride to Athens to be put into the rescue shelter.

She has been such a bright spot in my life this semester. Even though ROTC and school have been incredibly busy, it’s such a good feeling to come home to a bright smiling face. She loves running around in our apartment greenspace and chasing birds from the bushes. She’s always down to go for a walk or a run to the dog park.

Her favorite thing to do is play fetch at Strouds Run State Park. I’ve never seen a creature happier than when someone throws a stick or ball across the lake at Strouds and she swims after it. It is unbelievable to me to think about how our two worlds collided, and I don’t think we both could be any luckier to have each other.

Fall in Athens

Nicholas Burton

Nicholas Burton,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 26 October 2017

Week 9 is in the books. We have not had many fall-like days so far this semester, so shorts and t-shirts to class have changed to coats and jeans in a matter of days.

So far, this semester has gone pretty smoothly. I feel like I have understood my core classes pretty well and I have started scheduling for next semester already.

In addition to the core classes, I am taking my first non-STEM related class since high school, Philosophy. I tell you what, it’s quite a change to go from equations and math in every step to a class that involves no numbers at all. It has made me use a different part of my brain than I have used in a while, and I think this has benefited me.

As the last little bit of the true fall weather comes to a close, it is only fitting that Halloween is this weekend. Like I said before, this is my first fall in Athens so I have never gotten to experience the well-renowned Ohio University “HallOUween”, and I am excited to see what it is all about. To make the weekend even bigger, Ohio State plays in the biggest game of the year on Saturday afternoon, so a win would make the celebration that much sweeter.

How I Became Part of the Bobcat Family

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 14 October 2017

On a Monday morning in September 2012, a 17-year old Dutch High School student decided to improve her English grade. She failed a couple of her English reading and listening exams. For this reason, she watched American TV shows like Pretty Little Liars to improve her English listening skills. Her grade still did not change much, but her love for America grew.

During this period, she became aware of American college sports and the way athletics opens up a world of opportunities because of scholarships for student athletes. Nevertheless, this Dutch field hockey player stopped dreaming about America because she was insecure about her abilities as an athlete.

This 17-year old, insecure girl was me about 5 years ago. Nowadays, I am like a butterfly that came out of its Dutch cocoon. A lot of things have happened and changed since that one Monday in 2012. I graduated High School with one C (English…) and I decided to take a year off to work on my languages. I was also denied by my med school in the Netherlands which made me doubt my decision to become a doctor. I always wanted to help people by studying medicine, but this childhood dream changed after my gap year and journey through Southern Africa.

In 2014, I traveled to South-Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique to volunteer at a Neighborhood Care Point for vulnerable children. During this 6-week teaching assistant job, I also partially-funded a construction project which made me realize one does not necessarily need to be a doctor to help others. I helped with the building process and I designed some murals to decorate the school. On top of that, I had the honor to paint them myself, so I saw with my own eyes how much it was appreciated by the community. This made me change my opinion by 180 degrees: I wanted to study engineering instead of medicine.

That Summer in 2014, I applied for a major called “Bouwkunde”—a combination of structural engineering and architecture— at Eindhoven University of Engineering and Technology. I got accepted and I started my next chapter of life as an engineering student in the Netherlands. It was a tremendous university with sophisticated students and teachers but ever since I started traveling I wanted more than the tiny Dutch cities surrounded by flat farmland.

In the meantime, I was playing field hockey on the second-highest level in the Netherlands which opened up some opportunities in the United States of America. Since my English skills were still below average by the time 2015 came around, I started to look into some transfer options to continue my studies in an English speaking country. This was when my “American Dream” appeared once again. The 17 year old High Schooler was now a confident 20 year old young adult ready for the next step in her life.

After a roller coaster of field hockey recruiting events, recorded games, Skype conversations, and loads of paperwork I finally got my American visa to continue my academics and athletics at Ohio University in Fall 2015.

It was a huge step for me to transfer to an American university but I am extremely happy that I did. Choosing Ohio University was quite a risk because I did not visit America before let alone Athens, Ohio. Nevertheless, the conversations I had with my head coach, teammates, engineering teachers, and even current students on top of the beautiful Google Maps pictures made my heart race.

The pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.” —Sarah Bombell

I always say I rather try than regret not trying at all, which brought me to Athens this time and who knows what is next. Overall, this is my journey to Ohio University and now I will help you find your journey back hOUme.

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!