Students witness theory in action thanks to Scott and Jo Ann Weber Family Fund

Students stand with manufactured stars in a concrete plant.

UB CSEE students and associate professor Pinar Okumus hold star-shaped rebar at Sidley Precast Group.

By Peter Murphy

Published December 11, 2019

“Part of it is the practicality. We learn all about theory, but we don’t actually see it put into practice,” says Esteban Orellana, a senior civil engineering student, “this was a good opportunity to actually see it for ourselves.”

“I wish more students could experience trips like this in their design classes. It helps to see the bigger picture of what we are doing.”
Jane Fortin, Senior
Civil Engineering Student

Orellana and over 20 other students in associate professor Pinar Okumus’ Reinforced Concrete Design class visited the Sidley Precast Group’s plant in Thompson, Ohio to see the substance in practice, after learning about the theory behind concrete for most of the semester.

“At one point they were showing us how they pre-stress rebars in the concrete,” Orellana says, “there were leavers and a machine connected to them to apply tension and pressure. We’ve never seen something like that before.”

Sidley Precast Group is s Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI)-certified architectural and structural precast manufacturer. The organization does several large-scale jobs including parking garages and stadiums. These meetings and tours with engineering students are important to Sidley Precast Group according to Jennifer Grundy, director of sales and marketing with Sidley Precast Group.

“It is very important to us to develop a relationship with students,” Grundy says, “they are the future, and if we educate them about precast now, they are more comfortable in their careers.”

Some students were impressed with the size of the field and the variety of work that went on. "It was a lot easier to visualize and understand the problems once we went to the concrete facility," says Yevgeniy "Jake" Vorobeychik, a civil engineering senior, "I was able to explore the fields. I was running around and checking out all the beams that were in the yard."

The engineers at the plant welcomed the students and spent significant time explaining the different processes to them. "The most exciting part for me was when we sat down with an engineer and talked about how precast buildings get designed," says civil engineering senior John Foley.

Okumus and the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering’s director of undergraduate education, Christine Human worked together to orchestrate this learning opportunity using the Department’s Scott and Jo Ann Weber Family Fund.

“This experience is a perfect example of how we can effectively use this fund,” says Joseph Atkinson, professor and chair in the Department.

The Scott and Jo Ann Weber Fund was established by the Webers to provide undergraduate students with greater access to experiential learning opportunities. The fund may support seminars, speaker visits group field trips and other experiential learning opportunities.

“I like our reinforced concrete design class, and I wanted to learn more beyond the walls of the class room. This was the perfect opportunity to do so,” says Jane Fortin, a civil engineering senior who attended the trip, “I wish more students could experience trips like this in their design classes. It helps to see the bigger picture of what we are doing.”

Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering staff and faculty members interested in using the Scott and Jo Ann Weber Family Fund may visit this link for more information.