Local engineer credits IVCC

Martha Hoffman, Staff Writer

When I got to the university, I found I had a better foundation in the basics than the four-year students,” said IVCC graduate and current structural engineer Seth Hoffman. “IV doesn’t have the flash and image, but down to the basic classes it’s better.”

He works at Kiewit Engineering Group, a department of Kiewit Construction Company, where his role as a structural engineer is to design and engineer what is needed for construction projects, transportation infrastructure, buildings or offshore oil rigs.

Hoffman designs the construction project and any temporary structures needed, such as false work to support concrete while it is being poured. He plans supports for a building during construction to allow heavier traffic needed during the process, like forklifts instead of the foot traffic planned for in office buildings.

“I love the variety and challenge of my work.,” Hoffman said. “There are lots of different problems we solve and they’re often unique from what we’ve seen before. They’re sometimes outside of standard design codes and textbook problems. We have to be creative and apply structural engineering principles to solve problems.”

So, what’s an average day like for Hoffman? “Generally speaking, the structure of a day is consistent, but the details are constantly varied,” he said. “That’s my favorite part: it’s dynamic and fast-paced. We rarely do the same thing more than once.

Making calculations, reviewing calculations, making sketches, working with drafting people, and communicating with construction personnel in the field.

“I’m much more connected with the actual physical work than most design jobs,” Hoffman continued. “The project is usually months or weeks away from construction instead of months to years away.”

So, how did he get where he is today? “It was an incremental path. My two years at IV helped me find it as I went through course work. Initially I started with one semester in auto mechanics, then I decided I wanted to be part of the design side. I was able to easily transfer to course work.”

Hoffman explained that the engineering focus at IVCC was general enough to transfer into any specialty, so he didn’t have to commit until applying to a university.

“I loved the exploration and seeing each topic in the fundamental science classes that gave me exposure to what I love to do. I loved statics class–it was intuitive,” he said. This allowed him find his niche in civil engineering.

Hoffman graduated IVCC in May 2006 and transferred to University of Illinois where he majored in civil engineering, earning his Bachelor’s degree in May 2008 and his Master’s in May of 2010. After his graduation, he went straight into his awaiting job at Kiewit.

Seth Hoffman’s mother, Winifred Hoffman, saw the beginnings of his engineering prowess when he was a child. She said, “He’d been fascinated with how things work from very young. He’d take visitors around on the farm and explain to them how everything worked. He makes a good engineer because he knows how things work: the everyday, practical aspects.”

Hoffman’s advice for community college students is simple. “Take the basic classes seriously. The most essential stuff I learned was basic physics, statics and dynamics, and trigonometry.”

He suggested that the exposure to a variety of topics of study can help in finding your niche: “Be mindful of what you enjoy and what feels natural.”

Although it’s been more than a decade since he was on campus, he has many memories from his community college days.

“I still have close friends from classes at IVCC,” he said. “Even though at the time it didn’t seem like that much fun, I look back fondly on late nights studying with my core group of engineering students.” He enjoyed projects and trips with Chem Club and Phi Theta Kappa, along with the relationships he had with his instructors.

Hoffman added, “Enjoy the experiences and time you have there. Recognize the value, even though it could be difficult, of the education you get [at IVCC] and take advantage of the opportunities you have.”