Front and Center
Seniors in The Durham School's AE 8090 course get real-world interaction by working with Omaha's architectural engineering firms.
Student teams are assigned industry partners who share actual projects and discuss those throughout the term. Students align with their interest areas and integrate best practices for those projects’ mechanical, lighting, electrical, and acoustical aspects. The course ends with a big "presentation day," when students convey their learning to the industry partners.
Lisa Friehe, lower right, recalled sweating the presentation to complete her AE degree in 2009, but in 2010 she returned as an electrical lighting engineer with Leo A. Daly in Omaha. Friehe won last year’s "best lighting" award in the 2009 class projects; this year she enjoyed being "on the other side of the table" as she critiqued students’ lighting plans and their differences in luminaire selection.
"It’s important to have industry involvement in classes," Friehe said, "because for students there’s nothing quite like interacting with professionals to feel what that experience is like in real life."
In some parallel universe of engineering education, an undergraduate’s senior capstone course might be a time to reflect passively on the skills developed— but not at UNL’s Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction. In CNST 4890, the capstone class in Construction Management, the recap takes the form of an integration: solidifying skills and sprinkling in new levels of expertise, while moving at a pace that’s best described as fast-forward.
Class work focuses on a real-world project. In 2010, it’s the construction of Mammel Hall: UNO’s new business school structure that Kiewit Building Group is finishing just south of The Peter Kiewit Institute, where the Omaha CNST students study.
Kiewit Business Development Manager Don Wrieth leads the class with authority. On a presentation day, the 30 students arrive early—not only to set up their PowerPoints but also because Wrieth has established "Kiewit time," which he says is "always five minutes fast."
Wrieth is joined by colleague Pat Cuddigan, a project manager who’s also a graduate of the CNST program. They make a formidable back row, challenging the student presenters on their timelines:
Cuddigan asks, "What are you most worried about in your sequence?" "If the pre-construction drawings don’t get approved … ," the student replies, then trails off as he realizes a new factor. "But actually we can’t do much until the soils analysis is done."
Cuddigan focuses further: "Do you have anything tied to materials procurement?" "Probably the steel for the foundation reinforcements," the student offers. "We can’t do the glazing until we have that"—"And the steel has the longer lead time," Cuddigan injects, with the point welltaken by the student before they quickly move on.
Cuddigan continues: "And what process are you using to make sure you get the drawings when you need them?" It’s a tricky series of questions, but they are better addressed before the students submit their assignments later in the week.
Ben Jambor, a senior CNST student, describes the class as "fun." "You learn more by getting involved in a major project," he adds, with praise for the team activities that give a perspective beyond working solo as an intern.
"The toughest part has been preparing a big proposal in a week, but that’s not unreasonable in the real world, and it makes us better at giving presentations," Jambor explains. "I’ve been happy with my grades, and that the instructors are very open to questions." To future students, Jambor recommends "paying attention in other classes, to use what you learn."
Senior CNST major Grant Guenther agrees the class has been challenging. "They make it very much like real-life, with all the steps that tie everything together." He adds that students "definitely have to put the hours in," to succeed in this class.
Some of the students have had Kiewit internships, but that doesn’t necessarily confer advantages. Wrieth says this class is another important way to expose future industry professionals to the methods and structure of the Kiewit way.
Wrieth shaped the course curriculum to give lessons on how to control projects and resolve problems. As the scheduling presentations’ Q&A shows, it’s all to make sure the students understand the components and variables.
"The expectations are high," Wrieth says, "but I’m not surprised the students have met the expectations."
"We have excellent faculty at The Durham School, and what’s more—as this award shows— we have exemplary industry professionals also engaged in teaching our courses," said Clarence Waters, an associate professor who has led the AE program.
Candidates for this award are nominated by The Durham School’s upper-level AE students, who also determine the winner. The award can recognize not only faculty members but any teacher of AE classes at the undergraduate or graduate level. Its criteria focus on an individual’s teaching abilities, including in-class communication, availability outside of class, respect for and interest in students, and quality of information. Manríquez, based in Harper Woods, Mich., taught the advanced lighting design course via online and video methods, supplemented by periodic visits to meet with AE students at The Peter Kiewit Institute in Omaha.
AE student Scott Lindgren’s nomination of Manríquez described how students benefited from his real-world expertise: "We learned to develop aesthetically pleasing designs and not just be satisfied with our first solutions." Lindgren added that students in the course "learned to think of problems abstractly" and "everyone thrived and grew significantly as lighting designers."
Johnson Controls general manager and regional vice president Guenther Dziuvenis looks forward to the day when all new facilities are not only "green," but "bright green." Dziuvenis, a 1976 UNL alumnus in electrical engineering and a member of the UNL Architectural Engineering Advisory Board, is working to create buildings that are both green and intelligent, converging communication and commerce seamlessly.
Dziuvenis described the building process of integrating design, construction and information technology during a special luncheon for students and faculty at the College of Engineering’s Omaha Campus in February. His 30-year career with Johnson Controls, which began after he graduated from UNL, has enabled him to work with numerous clients on complex systems projects located throughout the U.S. He has both led and been responsible for all aspects of facility systems design, construction, commissioning, and ongoing operations/maintenance.
Dziuvenis said Johnson Controls has implemented the "technology contractor," who focuses on the information and overall functioning of a building. This contractor works closely with facility management and information technology, "working together to create the perfect technology storm."
He noted that 62 to 84 percent of all IT projects fail, and many LEED buildings lose their certification after a year or more, as they are not sustainable. According to Dziuvenis, the technology consultant implements the tech vision from ideation to post-construction services.
Dziuvenis encouraged engineering and IT students to integrate more closely to understand one another’s areas for future collaboration.
"We need to be transformational leaders," said Dziuvenis, "who anticipate future trends, have great vision, and communicate and inspire others."
When the "real world" meets academia, great things can happen. Clarence Waters, UNL associate professor of architectural engineering, understands the benefit of tapping into the expertise of the numerous architectural engineering firms and professionals in the area. His latest brainchild is "sharing" an HDR Architecture engineer for eight hours each week to work with engineering students.
HDR Senior Structural Engineer Todd Feldman now includes the titles "faculty" and "mentor" on his resume. Each week, Feldman spends time at PKI working with some students on their MAE capstone projects, as well as talking with interested students about the industry. He has conducted field trips to active construction job sites for students as well.
While Feldman has served as an adjunct faculty member for the Architectural Engineering department in structural design for the past eight years, teaching about six courses over the years, this arrangement is a unique approach. According to Waters, HDR and the college split the cost of Feldman’s time on campus, as both entities realize the benefits of close studentprofessional interactions.
Waters’ idea is based on similar models in other colleges, but he credits the Omaha engineering community for "helping make this happen as seamlessly as it did."
"We’ve enjoyed having industry professionals serve as adjunct instructors and volunteers, but this arrangement offers a great way for our students to spend additional time with Todd," Waters said.
Waters said Feldman’s position was expressly created as a new role within the college. His background and work experience are also helpful to the department’s faculty, some of whom have industry experience and others who are teaching directly following their doctorate degrees. He attends faculty meetings, which also helps him understand the world of academia.
This spring, Feldman began team-teaching a course with AE assistant professor Ece Erdogmus featuring a design module with masonry and timber. The team approach allows both the industry professional and the faculty to learn from one another, Waters noted.
Feldman gets to know the next generation of architectural engineers, and showcases HDR’s expertise and responsibilities. The program allows HDR to interact with students earlier in their majors for future internship and job placement opportunities.
"I think it’s as rewarding for me as it is for the students," Feldman said. "I do a little teaching and a little mentoring concerning technical skills, but also other areas that are important for students to work on."
Feldman cited an increased focus on enhancing students’ verbal and written communication skills as an area he can help guide.
"Students ask if they’ll ever use the skills we’re working with them on, and I can bring that industry perspective to them," he said. "We want students who can do the job right off the street, but who also are well-prepared in other areas."
Student feedback has been positive, according to Waters, and favors the job site tours and learning from Feldman’s work experience.
Waters said he’s not done yet with this industryshare program, and hopes to work with Omaha’s other engineering firms to encourage additional professionals to work in the same capacity as Feldman.
"I’d love to have half a dozen industry professionals on campus throughout the year working with our students and faculty," he said.
"Ultimately, this arrangement can hopefully give students that extra leg up as they transition from the academic world to the business world," Feldman said.