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Dayton Engineer

Raising the Curtain

By Eric F. Spina

Three UD civil engineering co-op students are helping to raise the curtain on the magnificent Roger Glass Center for the Arts.

Instead of reviewing lines for an upcoming play, they’re reading engineering drawings and working behind the scenes with Messer Construction Co. to help manage the design and construction of the $45 million facility on the southeast corner of Main and Stewart streets.

Workers are currently installing window frames on the ground level and terra cotta tiles on the upper sections of the building while constructing site walls to help to define entry walkways, plazas, and landscape areas. Construction is entering the home stretch with two-thirds of the building now complete.

“I think it will be cool to come back to campus and tell my kids, ‘I saw this concert hall when it was filled with scaffolding,’” Sophia Dugan, a sophomore from Cincinnati, told me. As part of her co-op experience, she’s marking up drawings and shadowing the construction superintendent during safety inspections.

I met Sophia and classmate Tyrone Smith when I recently toured the facility, which, when finished later this year, will be a testament to the power of the arts to elevate imagination and creativity on campus. Their classmate, Olivia Bistrek, completed an eight-month co-op on the project last August.

“I started working during the pre-construction phase. I reviewed the plans for most of the underground work, including the utilities and foundations. At the end of my co-op, I saw some of the steel go up,” said Olivia, a junior from Beavercreek, Ohio, who will co-op with Messer at its Cincinnati headquarters this summer in the virtual design and construction department

“It’s cool that one day maybe my kids will come to UD and have classes in that building or perform there.”

Tyrone, a junior from Loganville, Georgia, bikes to the construction site from the student neighborhood for his co-op experience, where he’s currently overseeing a crew of painters. He juggles his second-shift work schedule with serving as secretary of UD’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, internal communications coordinator and ambassador in the Multi-Ethnic Engineers Program, and as a peer mentor in the Multi-Ethnic Education and Engagement Center, where he received an Emerging Leader Award in 2021.

“I feel like I’m giving back to the University in some ways by working on this project,” he told me. “I have friends who are theatre folks and Flyer News staff who will use this space.”

It’s not lost on Sophia, Tyrone, and Olivia that the engineering staff on this and most construction sites is sparsely populated by women and people of color, but they are proud to be part of a new generation that is expanding the pipeline of opportunities and enhancing the talent pool available to forward-looking companies like Messer.

At UD, students learn best by doing. Project engineer co-ops for Messer update construction documents, develop and maintain color-coded progress plans to track foundation and steel installation, and supervise sub-contractors, among a myriad of other hands-on duties.

“To use a baseball term, co-ops tend to be the ‘utility infielder’ of a construction project,” said Scott Kulka, UD’s director of construction management. “They are always willing to try and learn new things, they can typically play any position, and they put their heart into everything they do.”

As a proud engineer myself, and as someone who is very excited about the new Roger Glass Center for the Arts, I say THANK YOU and BRAVO to Sophia, Tyrone, and Olivia!

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