Skip To Main Content

Big Time

“Constructor for a Day” program lets engineering students see large-scale construction projects up close.

Buzzing with activity, noise and challenges, construction job sites provide a learning lab that can’t be replicated in the classroom.

That’s why 21 civil engineering students in Dr. Ahmed Abdel-Mohti’s Structural Analysis class spent an entire day exploring job sites and talking with engineers in the field.

It’s a great opportunity for the students to see some of the structures we talk about in class being built right in front of them,” says Dr. Abdel-Mohti.

The Ohio Contractor Association (OCA) sponsored the “Constructor for a Day” program Oct. 13 in Toledo, Ohio. Students from other local universities also participated in the program.

During the course of the day, students visited four large-scale construction sites: a replacement bridge project over the Maumee River on Route 109 in Liberty Center, Ohio; a stone quarry in Maumee, Ohio, where regular, controlled explosions take place; an underground storm water storage basin and pump station project in the marina district in downtown Toledo; and a bridge replacement project over railroad tracks in downtown Toledo.

At each site, students observed the work in progress, learned about construction processes and heard firsthand accounts about obstacles that the project engineers encountered.

Allison Mitchell, a junior civil engineering major from Toledo, enjoyed seeing the storm water basin project because it was designed by Jones and Henry Engineers Ltd., a firm she interned for over the summer. “I’m a kinesthetic learner, so getting to see and touch things in a real-life project helps me to better understand the concepts and the math that goes into it,” she says.

The experience taught her to appreciate the complexity and planning behind every construction project. “Each project involves engineers, contractors and laborers. But you also have to consider multiple standards and regulations, design factors and cost. Even the slightest imbalance or miscommunication can delay a project,” she explains.

Nick Hess, a junior civil engineering major from Springfield, Ohio, was intrigued to hear about the setbacks engineers encountered during the bridge/train project.

The greatest thing I learned is that before approving plans for a replacement project, you should closely look at the job site to make sure your plans will work the way you thought,” he says. “I also learned that it takes many different types of people, personalities and job skills to complete a project.

In the evening, the students had an opportunity to ask questions and network with professionals in the field. “This was beneficial because we could meet with possible future employers and get our name out there and our foot in the door,” says Hess.

Mitchell agrees. “Attending events like this prepares you for the professional world in ways that the classroom can’t.”