Category Archives: Civil Engineering

My Summer as a Project Engineer

Haley Nau

Haley Nau,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 4 September 2018

A big stepping stone for me happened this summer with my first ever internship as a civil engineer. I was selected to work under a project engineer for Turner Construction Company in Columbus, Ohio. I was able to be a part of the team who was constructing Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s newest facility, Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion.

Upon completion this building will become Americas largest pediatric behavioral health hospital and research center. It will reach nine stories tall and have two outdoor courtyards located on the upper levels along with an outdoor play deck located on the topmost floor.

Working with Turner on this project was a one-of-a-kind experience. Being just an intern, my tasks were menial but held a big impact. My main task being to
construct a Door Schedule Matrix, while although sounding simple at first, I learned quickly that doors are one of the most intricate parts of a building. From the material to dimensions to hardware, everything must be perfect or there’s risk of loss that can easily turn into a domino effect. And with 967 doors to track, it understandably took up a large part of my work week.

From Turner I was able to get a hands-on experience along with learning the technical portions. For the second half of the summer I was tasked with being the point of contact for our patient room mock-ups. Mock-ups are a sample of the finished product that the owners come to observe and to see if changes should be made before installation of said product, this prevents any extra cost down the road.

The mock-up I was assigned was a sample of an inpatient hallway which included 3 different types of patient bedrooms with a corridor, a common space and a quiet alcove. I had the opportunity to work alongside subcontractors and to be their point of contact during the process of fixing any discrepancies in the mock-up or coordinate any changes the owner wished to make.

This summer helped apply the knowledge I have gained through classes and I’m eager to continue on working in my field.

The Best $140 You Could Spend At Wal-Mart

Sean Neff

Sean Neff,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 25 April 2018

Over the last four years of my eventful time here in Athens, I’ve made quite a laundry list of incredible memories and incredible friends. One of my fondest memories is from last summer in the heat of late June. Out on Lake Snowden (about 15 minutes south of Athens) my friend and I decided to christen our new shiny Wal-Mart purchases.

Two days earlier, we stumbled upon a summer sale in the outdoor section of the State St. Wally World. A bright blue Sundolphin Kayak for $120… a steal for even the cheapest type of new kayak out on the market. We debated buying the small 8 foot watercraft for a few minutes as well perused through the cereal aisle…and as we finally hit the Captain Crunch, we decided to pull the trigger and buy the kayak. Our biggest problem was this: even though I only weigh 148 pounds, two grown men could not fit in the kayak comfortably. So to make up for this issue, we also bought a $20 child-sized dinghy raft.

So back to Lake Snowden… with a bright blue kayak and a child sized raft in tow, two college students with two fishing poles and some tackle headed out to purge the lake of its famously large, but tough to catch, channel cat fish.

We spent almost 12 hours from sun up to sun down paddling into every cove and fishing hot spot catching a massive haul of keeper-sized cats. As the fishermen with their $150,000 specially-designed high-tech fishing boats passed by and saw two sun-burnt college punks with 10+ large catfish in their Wal-Mart kayak, their mouths dropped and their wallets cried. We delightfully filleted and grilled up our catch for the day, and shared our bounty with our troop of friends back in town.


Now, as the spring of 2018 continues to roll by into the early stages of summer, I have a kayak of my own. Unfortunately I didn’t get this one on sale, but it was still only $140. Now instead of a blue kayak and a kiddy dinghy out on Lake Snowden… there is a blue kayak and a twin orange kayak still raking in huge hauls. Except now we tend to throw back more than we keep. Yet still, I think it’s the best $140 I’ve ever given to the Walton family.

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 15 April 2018


Why does a cute, innocent, little baby have to go through cancer? Why does it have to be the rarest kind of acute myeloid leukemia for children? Why have we found treatments for this rare type of leukemia, which is most commonly found in the elderly and those with Down syndrome, yet it is still not treatable in young kids like our Leighton? Why does every amazing treatment and therapy still seem to give hope and then throw a brick in our faces? Why do families get ripped apart and put in a hospital for over 6 months? Why does this monster called cancer even exist? All questions with no answers. Unanswered questions I have to live with every day. I have to find a place for those and move on. Our work is not done. Maybe, maybe I will ever find an answer, but for now unanswered and rest in peace…


…Even though this happened to my own family, to my beautiful baby cousin and princess Leighton Hailey van Leeuwen when 12 months old, we will never give up. For 6 months, Leighton smiled every day and never ever gave up. She always laughed and fought back. Now that she’s brought to sleep by a magical fairy, it’s up to us, her family and friends, to share her story and keep her alive!


You can help by telling and sharing her story on social media and be part of Team Leighton while this June I step in the life of Forrest Gump to run across America. Although our support could not beat Leighton’s monster, it might help beat that of someone else. This is partly the reason why I decided to run for her when I applied to be a 4K for Cancer runner 5 months ago: supporting my family from overseas while sharing her battle with cancer as a newborn.

Every day for 6 months I talked to the amazingly strong parents—my cousin and his wife—to give them support while they lived in a hospital and the Ronald McDonald house to do everything for their first little baby Leighton. To show her all their love as parents and in an attempt to keep her alive.


Now that she is the brightest star in heaven, I realized how much my support meant for my family… I am so proud of Leighton and the rest of my family! All I can say to all of you now is to please be aware and create awareness. Cancer could happen to everyone.

Please be aware of your surroundings, treat everyone with respect, and please support them when they are going through a rough time. I am proud to be part of my Mom’s “van Leeuwen” family and the family of the Ulman Cancer Fund.


I will always carry that pride with me. Please support me in my mission for Team Leighton and UCF:
         “We envision a world in which no young adult faces cancer alone”

and in which we keep Leighton Hailey van Leeuwen her story alive!

For more information:

All Roads Lead to Rome

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 4 April 2018

For my second blog post of Spring semester, I decided to write about the differences in education system between my home country (the Netherlands) and the United States of America. It will be hard to emphasize those differences because some of the names and levels of education are not translatable. However, I hope this post will serve as a resource for High School students as well as OU students who are looking into a semester abroad.

Studying abroad has been the best decision in my life so far, which I hope everyone could experience! It widens your horizon. Studying abroad opened my eyes to several cultures and made it easier to communicate with people having different backgrounds. In school as well as in the work field, you will encounter people who have distinct believes and were raised in various parts of the world. In globalized times like this, I believe it is very important to understand those differences and respect one another.

That being said, I will try my best to explain the differences in education system that I experienced thus far. For example, at home we start off with kindergarten at the age of two up till four. When a child turns four, he or she goes to primary school (“basisschool”) up till twelve (grade 1-grade 8). At home, private schools are uncommon so most kids go to a local, public primary school at a walking distance of 5-10 minutes (yes my country is small, haha). 90% Of the Dutch elementary schools are part of the government and use the same teaching style around the same level of education.

When a primary school student reaches the age of 11 (grade 7), he or she is required to take a standardized test similar to the American SATs: “The Central End Test for Primary Education” (“CITO”). The results of this test in combination with another standardized test the following year (grade 8), determine what level of high school the student should do. Levels are directly related to above average, average, or below average test scores and the years one will be enrolled in high school (4, 5, or 6 years).

This test is also an important part of the decision to what high school one
would like to go since not all schools offer all different levels. The levels of high school are split up in three main levels:

  • 6 years of VWO (pre-university and
    research focused)

  • 5 years of HAVO (general second education, still provides entrance to university)

  • 4 years of VMBO (more technical, highest VMBO can continue to HAVO after graduation)

These first and third levels can be further divided into VWO-TTO (education in English), VWO-Gymnasium (focused on Greek, Latin and classical antiquity), VWO-Atheneum (basic), VMBO-T (entrance to HAVO), VMBO-basis, and VMBO-kader. The last two are focused on practical and technical education known as “technical schools” in the USA.



In our last year of high scool (“senior year”) we do a trip abroad with our class. I graduated high school with a VWO-Gymnasium degree, so we got to travel to Rome and experience all the ancient structures and art pieces we were taught about during our 6 years of high school!





Because of my Dutch high school degree and experience, the transition to a(n American) university was made a little easier than expected. Thus, use your opportunities to explore the world and become a sophisticated student creating for good!

Creating for Good on My Coast-to-Coast Run

Illona Hartman

Illona Hartman,
Junior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 24 February 2018

While I am studying for my engineering classes and practicing for the field hockey team, I am also running around Athens in preparation for my summer plans. This summer, I am running with a team of college-aged runners from coast to coast: literally from San Francisco to Baltimore.

This 4,000+ mile journey in relay form will take us 49 days, which means I will run 8-12 miles on average a day. During this “4K for Cancer,” we will be raising money and awareness for cancer. The 4K is a program of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults (UCF) and this will be the 17th time UCF is sending young adults across the country.

In addition to the physical aspect of this program it will be a mental challenge as well, as my 10 month old infant cousin is currently battling myeloid leukemia.

4K Run

Studying abroad has been challenging ever since she, Leighton van Leeuwen, got diagnosed with cancer at the age of 6 months (September 2017). However, I found support in running for her and in my family away from home: Ohio University.

4K Run

Last month, the coed professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau and the Russ College of Engineering and Technology helped me set up a fundraiser in the ARC Atrium. For two days, we sold Dutch baked goods for donations and we recruited 25 students to become part of the international bone marrow registry!

4K Run

On top of this, I organized a few other fundraisers such as an online Yankee Candle sale, selling Russ College T-shirts and flowers for Valentine’s Day through Tau Beta Pi, an online sale for engraved baking supplies, a “donate my hair” auction, and a Santa Fest birthday celebration at home before I came back to the States. All of this has contributed to my current donation status of $5,700!

4K Run

4K Run

In order to secure my spot on Team Baltimore, I had to raise a $4,500 minimum goal. Even after achieving this goal, it is not in my nature to stop spreading the word. Therefore, I have some exciting fundraisers planned for the rest of the semester to finish off with a personal goal of $7,000. For instance, Chi Epsilon and I will host a fundraiser at Tavolino, and I am planning on running my first half marathon in Athens this April…

4K Run

Thus, I am extremely thankful of the opportunities given by the Russ College and the ongoing support they have given me. Something I hope everyone to experience!

For more information on my 4K you can visit my personal blog and my fundraising page:

Spring Semester

Nicholas Burton

Nicholas Burton,
Senior, Civil Engineering

Athens, OH 11 February 2018

I’ve got to say this is starting to become one of the weirdest-feeling periods of my college experience so far. Many of the friends I’ve made and had classes with are all starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as they are in their final semester and have their jobs all lined up, while I am still here with the remainder of this semester and two to go. The idea of what many call a “victory lap”, or fifth year, sounded good at first, but now it is starting to have a different feeling.

Luckily, I ended up having a pretty good semester in the fall, so I was able to advance onward and start the next step of classes. So far, most of the classes I am taking this spring seem to be very similar to classes I have taken already, which is a good thing because a lot of the material has built off of knowledge I already have.

In addition to this, I am taking a construction-based course and my first-ever business course in order to obtain my construction management certificate when I graduate. These classes will hopefully make me a more well-rounded civil engineer and will likely give me a good base for my future in land development.

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.