Robert Hatch


Prime Engineering hosted 14 students and two faculty members from the Math and Science Magnet Program at Westlake High School. The experience was designed to give students interested in pursuing STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) careers insight into engineering as a profession.

Westlake High School
Located in southwest Atlanta, Westlake High School emphasizes a rigorous academic program. More than a quarter of Westlake students take Advanced Placement classes. Westlake’s Magnet Program has numerous tracks for Science and Technology as well as Fine Arts and Citizenship.

In the words of instructor Jenelle Wingfield, Westlake’s courses also “emphasize practicality and real-world applications to supplement the classroom instruction.” Magnet Program students do more than sit at desks and take notes — they engage in entrepreneurship, participate in the Adopt-a-Road program, and attend lunch & learn sessions with STEM professionals. This holistic approach to education pays dividends: Every senior in the visiting Westlake group has a college scholarship lined up.

Tour Part 1 – Prime Engineering Office
It was in this spirit of hands-on learning that Westlake partnered with Prime Engineering, a firm that designed many of the facilities students and faculty use daily.

After a tour of Prime’s office, presenters from across Prime’s market segments discussed their areas of specialty:
– Vice President Rob MacPherson, PE gave an overview of both Prime Engineering and the consulting engineering profession as a whole.

Xan Deeb, a Senior Designer at Prime, walked the group through the intricacies of high-level Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) and modeling — “building” a 3-D facility model in cyberspace before their eyes.

Gill Page, representing Prime’s Industrial Department, focused on mechanical engineering with an emphasis on fueling facilities.

Chris Cash, PE, Project Manager with Prime’s Transportation Department, detailed Prime’s work with airports, railways, pavements, and roads.

Mike Barger, RLS, and Byron Henning, RLS, PE gave a fascinating synopsis of surveying, from the profession’s ancient roots to the current use of robots and modern high-tech satellite trackers.

– Project Manager Kalyn Keeney, PE, LEED AP represented the Infrastructure Department, outlining site development, drainage, and erosion control.

Gus Harrington, PE gave an entertaining and inspirational history of his five decades creating structural designs for world-class facilities including the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Dome, and the MARTA railway network, as well as aerospace design for the first Apollo spaceflight.

Throughout the two-hour presentation, Prime’s presenters were kept on their toes by the Westlake students’ engagement and incisive questions. “They paid a lot more attention than I did at their age,” one host commented.

Tour Part 2 – In the Field
Following the office presentation, students, faculty, and hosts donned hard hats and safety vests for a trip onto two in-progress jobsites.

Marriott Springhill Suites
The first stop highlighted Prime’s survey and construction staking capabilities, as the group visited a busy construction site. Prime’s crews were staking building column lines and walls on 12 floors of the half-finished hotel.

Joseph E. Boone Boulevard Renovation
The tour then moved on to the Boone Boulevard Green Infrastructure and Capacity Relief Project. This project is one of Atlanta’s highest-profile design-build projects for 2017. Prime, in conjunction with Southeastern Site Development, is helping the City of Atlanta renovate 1.25 miles of road near the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Rob MacPherson and Mike Barger guided the tour group through the site. Two lanes of traffic were blocked to the horizon, the sidewalks were opened to expose the utilities beneath, and bulldozers rolled through the zone digging up and carrying off slabs of concrete. The construction crews’ hustle did more to convey the project’s scale and complexity than any classroom lecture could have done.

Students, faculty, and presenters found the field trip enjoyable and informative. “These young men and women were amazing,” Rob MacPherson noted. “Knowing that these kids want to make the world a better place is exciting to see. We are blessed to have such great programs and dedicated teachers in our schools.”

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