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Industry Meets Education

By: Kimberly Waggle Kramer, PE Assistant Professor. Architectural Engineering and Construction Science Kansas State University

What happens when a professional structural engineer with 14 years of consulting experience starts teaching at a university? A new course is developed.

Since I can remember, I always wanted to be a structural engineer and design and construct buildings. In sixth grade, I was assigned a project to build a model of a college campus in the year 2020; after that assignment, I was hooked, and I kept that model for years. My parents were very encouraging, as they always said, “Do the best you can, work hard, and be honest,” which is something I have tried to live by. In junior high and high school, I took all the math, science, art and drafting classes that were offered. After high school, I attended Kansas State University and graduated in 1989 with a degree in architectural engineering. My first job was for Leo A Daly, Company in Omaha, Neb., where I obtained a strong engineering base working on projects all over the world.

After five years, opportunity knocked in Oklahoma and I went to work for HTB Inc. It was at this job that I had my first Tilt-Up experience on a warehouse project. I received a lot of on-site experience doing construction administration work on my projects along with previous engineers’ projects in Oklahoma. During this time I realized how I stood out on the job site.

For instance, one time I was checking rebar for a shear wall on a hospital project after the codes had changed for seismic detailing. It was late in the afternoon, and most of the workers had gone home for the day. One worker who was about my father’s age at the time was doing some trench work. He walked over to where I was inspecting the rebar, and he peered down at me (the shear wall started 3 feet below grade) and asked, “What are you doing?” with a puzzled look on his face.

Glancing up from where I stood in the hole with my drawings in hand, I said, “I’m checking rebar.” He then asked me if I was an architect, and when I told him I was a structural engineer, he was even more puzzled, so I repeated my answer. He shook his head and said, “I’ve never seen a structural engineer that looked like you.” Then walked away with a smile on his face.

Similar situations have occurred several times throughout the years – the most recent was on a PT slab job last week. Although I may stand out on a job site, the contractor and workers treat me as one of them.

Later, I found a job opportunity in Texas and went to work for Carter & Burgess as a senior structural engineer. During this time, I obtained my Master of Engineering degree in civil engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. After four years, I decided to change jobs once again and began working for GideonToal Inc. I was given the position as Director of Structural Engineering after only a few months at the company. While working for GideonToal, we worked on a Tilt-Up project for Valeo electronics which won numerous awards, including the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute 2002 North America Design award. I also had the opportunity to design a few tornado resistant Tilt-Up projects that could resist 250-mile-per-hour winds.

In January of 2003, I started a new career as a university professor at Kansas State University in the department of Architectural Engineering & Construction Science and Management. The Construction Science and Management degree is ACCE accredited and started in 1965. It is an engineering-based management program in the College of Engineering designed to prepare students to be professional constructors, which is a technically competent manger of personnel resources, financial resources, material and machines. Approximately 400 students are enrolled in the four-year program, and nearly 80 to 90 students graduate each year, making it the sixth largest Construction Science and Management program in the United States.

I was assigned to teach a concrete construction class for the construction science students. As the students got to know my background, two of them were especially interested in Tilt-Up concrete. One of the students had a summer internship with a Tilt-Up job, and the other student’s father was an owner of a concrete construction company. These two students, Beau Hahn and Brock Beran, encouraged and motivated me to teach a Tilt-Up concrete class.

Kansas State University has two and a half weeklong intersession courses between regular semesters. In January 2004, I began teaching the first Tilt-Up Concrete Construction course ever offered at a university (to my knowledge) with 51 students enrolled in the course. The course has 27 contact hours and follows the ACI 551Tilt-Up Concrete outline.

A range of assignments are given, including an exercise on panel layout where the students are given a real project in which they are to lay out the panels on the building elevation and on the slab and/or waste slabs for a given crane size, and order of lifting the panels is to be noted.

In addition to a variety of assignments, several speakers from the industry have given one-hour presentations to the class, and they have been well received by the students. The backgrounds of these speakers range from general contractors, concrete subcontractors, and lifting and bracing insert manufacturers to concrete-industry associations and engineers who design Tilt-Up.

The course has been offered three times with big success; a total of 145 students have completed the course, and 48 of these students successfully completed the ACI Tilt-Up concrete certification exam. Two of those students include the only women certified as ACI Tilt-Up Technicians. A Tilt-Up Technician is someone who has an understanding of overall on-site administrative and technical management for producing Tilt-Up projects by passing the ACI written examination, but they lack sufficient work experience to qualify as a Tilt- Up Supervisor. The program requires knowledge in the following areas of Tilt-Up construction: 1) Safety 2) Plan reading 3) Scheduling 4) Site preparation and foundations 5) Slabs on grade 6) Layout 7) Forming 8) Placement and properties 9) Erection 10) Structural Systems.

Tilt-Up construction is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. At least 10,000 buildings enclosing more than 650 million square feet are constructed annually. This is largely a result of the economics of Tilt-Up, which combine reasonable cost with low maintenance, durability, speed of construction and minimal capital investment. With these things in mind, the course will continue to be offered.

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.