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Student Day 2015: Introducing Deep Foundations to Engineering Students

on February 26, 2015

On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, we welcomed about 50 undergrad and graduate engineering students from area universities to our Atlas Tube plant in Chicago for our 4th annual Student Day.

Presented by Atlas Pipe Piles (our pipe piles division), Deep Foundations Institute (DFI) and the Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA), aspiring engineers were given the opportunity to learn about deep foundations from industry professionals and tour our plant to witness how steel pipe is manufactured.

To kick off the event, we began with four presentations from industry professionals with varying backgrounds and expertise. Our first speaker was Geotechnical Engineering Professor Kyle Rollins from Brigham Young University. Professor Rollins holds research accomplishments in foundation engineering, earthquake engineering and soil improvement. His presentation focused on the lateral resistance of deep foundations, in addition to the various projects and testing he has conducted.

Our second presenter, Van Komurka, president of Wagner Komurka Geotechnical Group, spoke about geotechnical engineering design services, and the importance of geotechnical and structural engineers working together to recommend and utilize the most cost-effective foundations for a project.

Third in the line-up was Reggie Randolph, a Customer Service Engineer at International Construction Equipment (ICE), the largest manufacturer of pile driving and drilling equipment in North America. Reggie provided some great insight into the equipment options for installing pipe piles.

Rounding out the presentation portion of Student Day 2015 was Brett Gitskin, president of ECS Midwest, an engineering consulting firm. ECS specializes in geotechnical, environmental, and materials engineering and management throughout the Midwest. Brett captured the students’ attention with his stories about being an expert witness and the importance of testing subsurface conditions to ensure the soundness of a structure.

Breaking for lunch, students were able to network with our presenters and an HR rep from Atlas Tube. After lunch, students were taken on a tour of Atlas Tube, giving them the opportunity to see how we manufacture steel pipe. Certainly a crowd-pleaser, it was apparent that the students thoroughly enjoyed the tour and gained valuable insight into the world of steel pipe manufacturing and how a steel mill operates!

Student Day 2015 Collage

After the plant tours, we concluded the day with Bernard “Bernie” Hertlein from DFI and Steve Hall, the Executive Director of PDCA, addressing the students about the roles these organizations play in the deep foundations industry. Along with our presenters, they urged students to get involved with industry organizations and associations, and to network with engineering professionals. To very loosely paraphrase Van Komurka, “everything I learned about deep foundations, was outside of the classroom.”

Introducing students to new ideas and the value of learning about engineering outside of the classroom is what Student Day is all about, after all, they are the future.

In an industry like pipe piles and deep foundations where we lack young engineers, this was an opportunity to help increase awareness about various careers and paths they can take after graduation. A growing trend within the industry, DFI introduced their newest committee, Women in Deep Foundations, a program that stresses the importance of including women as future engineering and construction professionals – something we couldn’t agree more with.

All in all, we are very excited about Student Day 2015. In the past four years we’ve had approximately 300 students attend from area universities including University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Purdue University, Purdue University – Calumet, Illinois Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin – Madison.

Just two days after the event and we’re already looking forward to next year’s event!