Category Archives: Civil Engineering

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.

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!

Fall Motorcycle Rides

Rob Parker

Rob Parker,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 4 November 2016

Fall is by far my favorite season of the year. The temperature is cooler in the morning and during the day it usually warms to the low 60s. Along with the very comfortable temperature of the outside air, the trees change to beautiful colors. With all that said, there is nothing that clears my mind and gives me a better break from school than motorcycle rides with some of my friends.

There are countless winding roads and destinations outside of the city limits to choose from. One of my favorite rides is to Lake Hope, which is about 17 miles from Athens. The scenery on the way is breath taking. I usually ride with some of my friends that also have motorcycles and I take whoever wants to ride on my back seat as well.

ALT

Discovering what awaits outside of the city limits is quite an experience. There are some rather cool landscapes around the Athens area and I’m sure every student’s experience is different. Having the wind hit my face with my buddies riding next to me cruising by the colorful trees is the best stress reliever that I have found yet.

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.

Summer Construction Co-op

Rob Parker

Rob Parker,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 24 August 2016

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful co-op experience with a heavy highway and larger excavation company by the name of E.S Wagner. This was my third go-around with a co-op and by far was the best one.

With Wagner, I was on two different jobs over the summer. One was building a section of railway for Norfolk Southern and the other was a replacement of a bridge with a box culvert on route 2 in Oregon, Ohio.

I was paired up with the site superintendent working with the daily operations of the project. It went so well that by the end of the summer I was running my own jobs, small ones, but nevertheless, I was running them alone. I have always had a draw towards the construction atmosphere, and have been involved with it for several years now, so this past co-op session fit my interests perfectly.

Being a senior now, it feels weird to me that I will have to soon begin looking for full time positions instead of just co-ops. It makes me slightly nervous but overall I’m excited to see what comes next. My plan is to go into the construction field as a superintendent/project manager and eventually be overseeing several different projects at once. I love to have many moving parts to a process and making it so those moving parts coincide with one another to accomplish a very complex task.

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!