National Surveyors Week 2019 - Chris Higgins

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Where are you from? Augusta, Illinois

How long have you been surveying? 24 years

What office are you based out of? Rock Island, Illinois

What do you love about your job? I like the history, walking in the footsteps of those before us.  I enjoy the challenge of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together.

What is your favorite project you’ve worked on? Probably the Mendota Hills Wind Farm.  It was the first utility scale wind farm in Illinois and was the first renewable energy project that I was involved with.  I did the field work, computations, platting, and staking for this project, so was involved from start to finish.  I recently had the opportunity to work on this project again, as V&K was awarded a survey contract to perform an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey and as-built survey for the repowering, where they took down the old turbines and put up fewer but higher capacity turbines.

Advice for those looking to enter the surveying field? I’d say try to do an internship or summer work program with an engineering/surveying firm.  Get your hands dirty and see what it’s all about – you’re either going to love it or hate it, but it’ll be a great learning experience as to what all goes into surveying.  Surveyors are in demand; colleges that offer the survey specialization degree are dwindling away due to budget cuts and lack of interest, so there is a mismatch between the number of newly licensed surveyors coming in and the number of older surveyors retiring.  To put it in perspective, in Illinois in 2018, there were only 27 new PLS licensees for the entire state!

Fun fact? I’m outdoorsy and like to hunt, fish, and garden.  I volunteer with my local Boy Scout troop and our local National Wild Turkey Federation chapter.

National Surveyors Week 2019 - Craig Beedle

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Where are you from? Onawa, Iowa

How long have you been surveying? I worked on the survey crew for Monona County in the summers during high school starting in 1988. Then for the Nebraska DOT survey crew during the summer while in college.

I joined V&K in 2000 and received my PLS in 2006.

What office are you based out of? Sergeant Bluff, Iowa

What do you love about your job? Mostly the variety and challenge. Every job is different, and you rarely know going in what you are going to find. It takes research, planning, hiking, digging, and careful evaluation of all the evidence to complete each job.

What is your favorite project you’ve worked on? My most challenging from a survey standpoint was a road realignment project for Monona County in 2003. It was 5.5 miles through the Loess Hills.

We recovered and reset many section corners that had to be hiked into and some had not been seen in 30 to 60 years.

Advice for those looking to enter the surveying field? Surveying is one of the few jobs that can combine exhaustive physical and mental effort.

The new technology coming out with scanning and drones are great tools that can peak the younger generations interest in a job that’s been around since civilization started.

If you’re not afraid of a challenge and also want to stay in shape it may be for you.

Fun fact? The last couple of years after having no previous interest in running, my wife and I started training for marathons. In fact, every vacation we go on now is centered around a half or full marathon. I leave the full to my wife and I just stick with the half. I’m not fast by any stretch of the imagination but, never did I think I would start such a physically demanding sport at the ripe young age of 47 but it’s been enjoyable and rewarding though sometimes painful.

Project Spotlight: U.S. 150 over BNSF Railroad - Knox County, IL

The relocation of U.S. Route 150 was precipitated by the advanced deterioration of the structure carrying U.S. Route 150 over the BNSF Railroad located at the southeast edge of Galesburg, Illinois. In addition to the structural deficiencies of the bridge, the existing horizontal and vertical roadway alignments did not meet current Illinois Department of Transportation design policy. The Illinois Department of Transportation retained Veenstra & Kimm, Inc. to provide Phase I and Phase II engineering for the structure replacement and roadway realignment.

Led by our Springfield office, the realignment and reconstruction of U.S. Route 150 encompassed approximately 3,055 feet of roadway. U.S. Route 150 shifted approximately 50 feet horizontally and was raised approximately 9 feet vertically in order to meet IDOT policy. Due to the difficulty of utilizing staged construction to build the bridge, U.S. Route 150 was closed to traffic during construction. In addition to the U.S. Route 150 realignment, approximately 1,200 feet of Knox Road 1440N was relocated and a new roadway was constructed.

U.S. Route 150 reopened to traffic in the Fall of 2018.

To read more about the realignment, follow the link below:

https://www.galesburg.com/news/20170911/us-highway-150-realignment-coming-in-2018

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Engineers Week 2019 - Bob Veenstra Jr.

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Where are you from? I was born in Muscatine, Iowa, but moved to West Des Moines 1961 when I started junior high school.

Where did you go to school? Iowa State University and Drake University

What office are you based out of? West Des Moines, Iowa

Why did you choose the engineering field? I was greatly influenced by my dad starting the firm in 1961. I was exposed to engineering at a young age, and I enjoyed math and science.

What has changed in the field since you began working over 40 years ago? Technology has evolved tremendously since I began working in the field. Back then there were no computers, no computerized surveying technology, no CAD. All of our calculations were done by hand, often using a slide rule. From that perspective, advances in technology have improved efficiency in our work, however today some tend to rely too heavily on computers. When calculations were done by hand you trained yourself to have a gut feeling if something seemed off or incorrect, however those instincts have diminished in the field due to our reliance on computers today. 

Technology has also changed the exchange of information, with particular impact on the urgency of things. Years ago if something was urgent, you would write a letter and mail it. The time it took to write a letter and garner a response or find an answer was much longer than it is today. We didn’t have to react to everything right away.  

What has stayed the same? The fundamentals of what we do have remained the same over the years.  The basic interaction we have with clients still remains today. We needed interpersonal skills over 40 years ago, and you still need to have interpersonal skills in the field today. 

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? If you want to get into consulting in particular, you must have non-technical skills. Engineers don’t always have language and presentation skills as strengths, however successful engineers need those people skills too. You don’t necessarily need non-technical skills to succeed in school, but you need those skills if you want to go anywhere with your career. 

Engineers Week 2019 - Libby Patton

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Where are you from? Des Moines, Iowa

Where did you go to school? University of Missouri (Civil/Environmental Engineering)

What office are you based out of? West Des Moines, Iowa

Which area of engineering do you practice? Environmental Engineering

What does “engineering” mean to you? Problem solving. Finding the most efficient and appropriate solution.

Why did you choose the engineering field? I started as a math major.  I realized that I didn’t want to be a teacher so, enjoying math and physics, I decided I would pursue engineering. 

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? I have two.  The Keokuk Wastewater Treatment Facility.  It was a big project.  It had a lots of older components and things were changing.  It was fun to deal with the changes and the client was as really good to deal with.  The other project is the Roland Wastewater Treatment Facility.  It was the first large project that I was solely responsible for.     

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Try it, you won’t regret it even if you change course.

Fun fact: I’m expecting my third child this summer. This baby will join Mabel, age 3 ½ , and Ann, age 1 ½.   

Engineers Week 2019 - Jason Petersburg

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Where are you from? Joice, Iowa

Where did you go to school? Iowa State University

What office are you based out of? Mason City, Iowa

Which area of engineering do you practice? Municipal/Civil Engineering

What does “engineering” mean to you? Making deliberate decisions using math and science skills to find efficient, cost effective solutions to problems or projects.

Why did you choose the engineering field? I’ve always enjoyed math and science. Engineering was a good match for me.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? I don’t have one particular project that I would call a favorite. I enjoy utility work the most, including sewer, water and storm sewer. Anything buried!

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Particularly for municipal engineering, make yourself take government classes so you are familiar with the workings of municipal clients.

Fun fact: I have an identical twin brother (although were were never formally identified as being identical).

Engineers Week 2019 - Chris Parizek

Where are you from? Iowa City, Iowa

Where did you go to school? Iowa State University for Animal Ecology and the University of Iowa for Civil Engineering

What office are you based out of? Rock Island, Illinois

Which area of engineering do you practice? Municipal Engineering with a focus on water

What does “engineering” mean to you? Problem solving. Examining the needs and developing a solution.

Why did you choose the engineering field? While working in the Ecology field, I was exposed to building terraces, ponds, and dams.  I wanted to be able to be the Professional Engineer that stamped the plans so I went back to school for my engineering degree.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? In Henry County Iowa, I had the opportunity to work on an integrated planning project for a farm that raised Dexter Cows. Dexter Cows are of Irish decent and are the smallest bovines.  I love Dexter Cows.  The integrated planning project involved examining water sources and pipelines, grazing and nutrient management as well as pest management and cropping plans.  

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Find your passion and go for it. If you’re passionate you will enjoy it.

Fun fact: I played the violin for 12 years.

Engineers Week 2019 - Mat Saur

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Where are you from? Iowa City, Iowa

Where did you go to school? Iowa State University

What office are you based out of? Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Which area of engineering do you practice? Civil Engineering

What does “engineering” mean to you? Civil Engineers are problem solvers that help people by improving infrastructure and the environment.

Why did you choose the engineering field? I always enjoyed math and science in school, I had great teachers that really made those classes fun.  I also enjoyed building things and learning how stuff works.  Engineering seemed to check all of those boxes.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? I have really enjoyed the variety of work that I have been involved in.  From water, wastewater, streets and building projects, I am always learning new things.  One of the more gratifying projects that I have worked on was a park project for the city that I live in (Marion).  My kids don’t usually get excited about a sewer plant I am working on but they really loved hearing about the new park and playground being built near our house.

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Engineering is not just about math and science, don’t forget about the soft skills.  You need to be creative, flexible and be able to work with others in a team setting.  While engineers are not typically known for their communication skills, communication is very important between co-workers and clients.  

Fun fact: While I am a proud ISU grad, I still root for the Iowa Hawkeyes in sports. 

Engineers Week 2019 - Michelle Melson

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Where are you from? Hannibal, Missouri

Where did you go to school? University of Missouri - Rolla (Civil Engineering)

What office are you based out of? Liberty, Missouri

Which area of engineering do you practice? I prefer bridges but enjoy roadways for a change of pace.

What does “engineering” mean to you? Solving problems.

Why did you choose the engineering field? I’m logical and I like math and science. It didn’t hurt that the pay was good.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? The steel bridge I’m collaborating on with the Springfield office.  It’s a multi-span bridge with 60-inch deep beams over a county road, 2 railroads, and a creek.      

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Get an internship before you commit to the program… make sure you like it.

Fun fact: I don’t like to ride motorcycles.  My brother made me ride a dirt bike when I was young and we crashed.     

Engineers Week 2019 - Emily Linebaugh

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Where are you from? Ames, Iowa

Where did you go to school? Iowa State University (Bachelors) and University of Iowa (Masters)

What office are you based out of? Coralville, Iowa

Which area of engineering do you practice? Environmental/Water & Wastewater Treatment

What does “engineering” mean to you? Helping communities find solutions to problems.

Why did you choose the engineering field? I liked math and science growing up. My dad worked at the DOT, and I did a job shadow there in middle school. I liked the idea of building things and having a finished product that everyone could see. Engineering seemed like a good fit.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? Marion Water Department’s Booster Station and Ground Storage Tank. 

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Engineering is not all math and science. There is much more writing and communication than most people anticipate. Work on your technical writing skills.

Fun fact: I enjoy traveling to warm weather destinations and love to fly.  

Engineers Week 2019 - Chad Kehrt

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Where are you from? Belmond, Iowa

Where did you go to school? Iowa State University (Construction Engineering)

What office are you based out of? Sergeant Bluff, Iowa

Which area of engineering do you practice? Municipal Engineering

What does “engineering” mean to you? Improving infrastructure to help society live better lives.

Why did you choose the engineering field? As a kid I loved taking things apart and putting them back together. Now I enjoy building things.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? I love residential street construction because of the interaction I get to have with the residents. My favorite project was 3 pipeline borings under the Missouri River. The project connected water and sewer lines between South Sioux City, Nebraska and Sioux City, Iowa.

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Don’t be afraid to take chances and network as much as possible.

Fun fact: I do not have a lot of hobbies and would not consider myself an overly interesting person.  I like to golf.  I do like to spend time with my family and friends, especially during the summer when we can be outdoors.  I love to spend time watching Iowa State football and basketball.  I go to many ISU football games with my wife, kids, and granddaughters.  My wife and I purchased an ISU tailgating bus last fall and we are really looking forward to football games this fall.

Engineers Week 2019 - Chris Kohlrus

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Where are you from? Springfield, Illinois

Where did you go to school? Southern Illinois - Carbondale

What office are you based out of? Springfield, Illinois

Which area of engineering do you practice? Civil Engineering (Transportation)

What does “engineering” mean to you? To me engineering involves solving problems and asking “How can I fix this?”. I am always trying to fix things.

Why did you choose the engineering field? I knew in high school I was interested in engineering. I wanted to build things. Joining Henderson & Associates allowed me to see all facets of a project, from beginning to end, due to the size of the firm. I was able to gain experience in land surveying in that process and really enjoyed it.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? U.S. 150 in Galesburg, Illinois. We relocated (moved) U.S. 150 due to visibility issues. In the process we also had to relocate a county road. A new bridge was constructed over the railroad tracks on the edge of Galesburg. All of the earthwork was completed during the first year to allow time for things to settle. Construction took place last year, and the road was formally opened for use in the Fall of 2018.

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? First and foremost, it doesn’t matter where you go to school. Regardless of where you go to learn, you will only leave with theory. What matters is after school, once you enter the field. On the job is where you really learn how to be an engineer.

Fun fact: Family is my number one priority. While I work hard, I also like to play hard. I enjoy being the jokester of the office!

Engineers Week 2019 - Randy Johnson

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Where are you from? Fairbanks, Alaska

Where did you go to school? University of Alaska Fairbanks

What office are you based out of? West Des Moines, Iowa

Which area of engineering do you practice? General Civil Engineering (Municipal)

What does “engineering” mean to you? To me engineering involves providing the public with systems to improve public infrastructure, including roads, sewer, water, and air.

Why did you choose the engineering field? High school aptitude tests indicated engineering would be a good field for me. I’ve always enjoyed math and science, and I enjoy being outside.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? University of Alaska Fairbanks Dining Facility. We added a dining facility to the Student Union. The building’s exterior almost entirely consists of colored glass panels. I took the project from conceptual development through final construction.

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Do it! An engineering degree offers so many avenues, and gives you the flexibility to find an area that you enjoy.

Fun fact: I’ve been married 33 years and have three kids. Two daughters who are still in Alaska, and my son who is currently living in Des Moines. I’m also a grandpa!

Engineers Week 2019 - Jacob Lucas

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Where are you from? Bankston, Iowa

Where did you go to school? Loras College

What office are you based out of? Dubuque, Iowa

Which area of engineering do you practice? Electrical/Controls Engineering

What does “engineering” mean to you? For me engineering is “making things work”. You can take a mix of unrelated parts and equipment and design a system that allows them to work together to solve the problem at hand.

Why did you choose the engineering field? I’ve always been interested in how things work, and enjoy tinkering and taking things apart.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? Osceola, Iowa Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Stick with it! Don’t let calculus and other daunting college courses scare you off. If you are a problem solver and want to make an impact in your community, engineering is for you.

Fun fact: My wife Jamie and I have 2 kids, Josey and James. Both times she was pregnant I managed to injure my knee playing rec league basketball. The latest incident occurred last December, coincidentally less than a week before we were scheduled to move. Needless to say I’ve been forced into early retirement from basketball.

Engineers Week 2019 - Russ Stammer

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Where are you from? Storm Lake, Iowa

Where did you go to school? Iowa State University

What office are you based out of? Rochester, Minnesota

Which area of engineering do you practice? Civil Engineering

What does “engineering” mean to you? Guiding clients, regulators and contractors to good solutions and good projects.

Why did you choose the engineering field? Aptitude tests in high school and talking with other classmates.

What is your favorite project that you’ve worked on? I have two! The Hampton, Iowa Composite Water Tower, which was the first modern composite water tower in Iowa. The second is the Fort Dodge Phase 1 Waste Water Treatment Improvements project, where repairs were made that brought the plant into compliance with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources while staying within the City’s set budget.

A piece of advice you would have for those considering engineering as a profession? Choose your profession based on the big picture of what you decide you want to do. Don’t avoid a career because of the classes you have to take to get there. I did not like chemistry in school, but it is an important part of my work.

Fun fact: I backpacked 72 miles at Philmont with my son and his fellow boys scouts a few years ago.

Project Spotlight: Burlington Riverfront TIGER Grant Project

V&K recently submitted a proposal for the Main Street, Jefferson Street and Riverfront Improvements project for the City of Burlington. Led by the Quad Cities office, the proposed team consisted of V&K, SmithGroup, Bruner, Cooper & Zuck, Inc. Terracon, Environmental Planning Strategies and Tallgrass Archaeology. V&K has worked previously with SmithGroup, who provides urban planning/rendering and design services, for the City of Burlington’s Flood Mitigation project. 

 The $17M project includes riverfront amenities (ramp, docks, parking, shade structures), complete streets (9 blocks on Main Street and 8 blocks on Jefferson Street), and combines flood protection, sewer separation, dockage and integrated planning into one effort. The V&K team was selected without interview as we clearly stood out among competitors for the Engineering Services related to the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generation Economic Recovery) grant, a significant aspect of the project’s funding. 

A special thank you to Jason McKenzie (Rock Island) and Eric Lee (Rock Island) for their work completing the grant application for the project!

To learn more about the Riverfront project and other TIGER Grant projects, visit the links below:

https://www.thehawkeye.com/news/20180306/burlington-wins-consequential-17-million-grant-for-jefferson-main-and-riverfront-video

https://www.iapublictransit.com/news/iowa-receives-17-million-in-tiger-grants-from-fta

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