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A group of people in vests and hard hats at a construction site.
Students from structural steel design toured the new building construction site at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Clanging metal, the crackle of welding and beeping machinery filled the air as students studying structural steel design entered the new building construction site at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum that will house the Union Pacific 4141 locomotive and Marine One helicopter.

Over 50 students from the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Texas A&M University toured the construction site.

Large steel girders spanned overhead as Assistant Professor Dr. Kinsey Skillen pointed out and described to his students what they had been learning in the CVEN 446 class this semester.

In the classroom, students learn to proportion structural steel members in building applications based on actual structural plans and fabricator drawings. Skillen said it's hard to fully appreciate the scale of these structures and the loads they must resist without seeing them firsthand.

"I saw it all coming together as we walked atop the composite steel decking, inspecting the shear stud placement, viewing the double-angle bolted connections and recognizing how important constructability requirements are to design," he said. "The most important aspect of this trip was for the students to recognize just how approximate our design calculations are with respect to the real deal. If one is to be wrong anyway, one should be wrong the simple way."

A group of students in hard hats and vests get a lesson from a faculty member.
Dr. Kinsey Skillen points out the bolts and steel columns during the tour at the new building that will house the Union Pacific 4141 locomotive and the Marine One helicopter. | Image: Texas A&M Engineering

Senior civil engineering student Ellie Garrett said the trip to the museum offered a unique learning experience because students could see firsthand why engineering judgment and constructability concerns are crucial to the work of civil engineers.

"Dr. Skillen stresses the importance of engineering judgment and encourages us to consider that whatever we design has to be built," she said. "It was fascinating to visualize the concepts we discuss in class and take what we learned back into the classroom as we continue to learn structural steel design."

Civil engineering senior Carlos Padron-Martinez agreed.

"To go on this trip was a unique experience that greatly translated the stuff we did in class to reality," he said. "This trip opened our eyes to what we, as civil engineers, can produce, so it was very beneficial. My favorite part was going to the second floor and having Dr. Skillen show us examples of the structure that we can easily calculate with what was taught in class."After walking through the construction sites, students toured the Bush Library to learn about the Bush family legacy.

"I'm very proud of our civil engineering students and proud to be a part of this great university," Skillen said. "It's easy to see why President Bush chose Texas A&M as the home of his library."