Improving Infrastructure, Strengthening Communities

by | Jan 3, 2018 | Alumni Network, Winter 2018 | 0 comments

The need for quality and thoughtful urban infrastructure across the nation continues to escalate, and with recent engineering technology advancements, engineers are stepping up to meet the growing demand. In this year’s annual report card put out by the American Society of Civil Engineers on the state of the nation’s infrastructure, America scored a D+. It’s clear there is still some work to do, and Mines is poised to make big impacts as one of the premier institutions educating tomorrow’s civil and underground engineers; Mines offers the only graduate degree program in underground construction and tunnel engineering in North America.

With the rapid rate of city expansions both locally and nationally, many engineers are rolling up their sleeves to tackle the jobs ahead. One such group is the Olsson family. John S. Olsson ’88 received a civil engineering degree from Mines and has worked at Olsson Associates, his father’s engineering and design firm based out of Lincoln, Nebraska, since 1989. John’s son Matthew Olsson ’16 followed in many of his father’s footsteps; he, too, is a civil engineer and was even in the same fraternity (Beta Theta Pi). Matthew currently works for Kraemer North American and was part of the recent innovative highway project near campus at U.S. 6 and 19th Street.

“It’s so cool to have a son who would want to practice the same field and then have him settle on the same university as you,” said John. “It was fun for me to relive college. I got to spend a lot of time on campus. It is amazing how much it had changed. The culture and core are the same but the physical facilities—so much had changed.”

Not only has campus transformed, but the civil engineering field has as well. When John first graduated, he was still drafting with a pencil and a T square. Now, technology is impacting their business; Olsson Associates uses drones, robotics and scanners as a way to collect data. “It is hard to fathom just the way technology is impacting our business. It used to take three people to do a site survey. Now you can do it with two people, sometimes with one guy,” John said.

With the data from different surveying techniques, civil engineering firms like Olsson Associates can think long term and develop local community value through their projects.

“As a firm of about 1,100 people, our vision is to go into a community and make it better through infrastructure. Sometimes infrastructure can be a means to an end. We create the roads and utilities, which allows the community to grow,” said John. He points to a large project they recently completed in the firm’s home city of Lincoln as an example. The city wanted help in picking a location for a large arena. Olsson Associates supported a downtown location where the infrastructure was already in place—the area is now going through redevelopment and is becoming known nationally as Silicon Prairie.

Olsson Associates often recruits Mines graduates because of their work ethic, motivation and dedication to a project. John says those qualities can be hard to find in graduates, and he would put a “Miner” up against anyone. John is also a strong supporter of the university and gives annually to the Mines Fund, which supports innovation and new technology to spark ingenuity among the upcoming engineers of our cities.

“Mines was very good to me and has allowed me to live a good life,” John said. “How can you not want to support such an institution?”