USACE helps local student see engineering more clearly

Middle East District
Published Dec. 16, 2017
USACE engineers with student intern at conclusion of his internship.

USACE Structural Engineer Jordan Ogata, student intern Nathan Wiens, and USACE Structural Engineer Nathan Fox stand with Wiens’ bridge design project at local Gifted Independent Study showcase, Dec. 13. Wiens has been a student intern with USACE Middle East District since September.

The Middle East District (TAM) Engineering Division has helped shed light on various aspects of engineering for local high school student Nathan Wiens. 

Since September and the beginning of the Millbrook High School’s senior’s first semester, Wiens has spent the afternoon of every other day with TAM team professionals exploring engineering as part of his Gifted Independent Study class. He knew he was interested in engineering but didn’t know which discipline. He rotated through geotechnical, civil, environmental, mechanical, electrical, fire protection, communications, and structural engineering. He chose to do his project in structural engineering with structural engineers and mentors Nathan Fox and Jordan Ogata.

After deciding to design a suspension bridge, Wiens researched many bridges and ultimately decided to put together a design and drawings based on an existing suspension bridge located in Flaming Gorge, Utah. Fox and Ogata worked with him on finding the necessary loads (dead, live, wind, and seismic) to design for. They also worked with him in modeling the bridge in a structural analysis software, Risa 3D. The loads found were inputted in Risa to determine if the members, or individual beams, could withstand the load combinations.

After the bridge was designed and structural elements were sized and selected, Architect Alex Marchuk helped Nathan model the bridge in a Building Information Modeling (BIM) software, called Revit. Once the bridge model was developed, it was placed onto a virtual site and rendered to visualize the bridge and the surrounding landscape.

On 13 Dec., Wiens took part in the Frederick County Public Schools’ Gifted Independent Study showcase where students through that program all over the county took part. His design was displayed and highlighted what he had learned and experienced during his time at TAM.

“Nathan was able to catch on quickly to various engineering concepts,” said Ogata. “He familiarized himself with building manuals, structural analysis software, and BIM software which made mentoring him very easy.”

Wiens appreciated the opportunity to gain knowledge and experience that he recognized could not have come from a classroom setting. “I have always loved math and science and knew I wanted to do something either in some engineering discipline or maybe biology,” he said.

“I am very grateful for the time I have been able to spend with you learning about structural engineering. I have decided to major in engineering in college because of this experience,” Wiens said.

Now that he’s decided on a direction, he’s already applied to Vanderbilt University, Virginia Tech, and California Polytechnic State University. He’s still working on University of Virginia and a couple others, keeping all his options open. But his mentors are sure he’ll succeed, no matter which he attends.