With two school construction projects underway in the Ridgefield School District, staff and project engineers found a way to turn the work into a learning experience for students. Lance Lehto, President of Columbia West Engineering, took students from both View Ridge Middle School and Ridgefield High School on tours of the nearby construction sites, teaching concepts of civil engineering including on-site cement testing and the importance of building a sound foundation.

Lehto introduced students to the field of geotechnical engineering, explaining the three phases: investigation, design and construction. “Geotechnical engineers work directly with rocks and soils,” explained Lehto. “We build the structures that come into contact with the ground such as bridges, highways, airports and buildings.”

Engineering is a lot of fun – there are days when I’m out on a construction site in beautiful weather and thinking ‘what can be better than this?’

Lehto took students on tours of concrete slab pours at both schools where crews pour cement to create floors reinforced with rods of steel rebar. He explained the difference between compression forces which push down and tension forces which pull from side-to-side.

Columbia West engineers demonstrated different types of cement tests performed to ensure the pour occurs within regulated specifications. These include tests for air, water and compression strength.

“If the cement isn’t within the specifications, walls, floors and ceilings can crack and crumble under the forces affecting the building.”