By Mason Nichols
Each year, the NPCA Foundation awards scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in civil engineering, architectural and construction-related curricula. By providing financial support to students in these disciplines, NPCAF increases awareness of the many benefits of precast concrete products and helps create a more educated specifying community. This year’s class of recipients is outlined here.
Name: Erica Johnson
School: New Jersey Institute of Technology
Major(s): Architecture, Concrete Industry Management
Sponsor: Jamie Gentoso, Sika Corp.
New Jersey Institute of Technology senior Erica Johnson knows that hard work is necessary for success. That’s exactly why Johnson, who is seeking a dual degree in architecture and concrete industry management, plans to also pursue a master’s degree in construction management after she graduates.
In addition to a full course load, Johnson has been working as an intern for Sika Corp., an NPCA Associate Member, for nearly a year. She has helped redesign Sika’s product labels to meet OSHA safety warning requirements under the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals. Recently, she also joined the American Concrete Institute’s student chapter at NJIT. She became the chapter’s vice president shortly after becoming part of the group.
Thanks to NPCAF’s support, Johnson said she will be able to pay the fees that are required for her to take the extra courses she needs to graduate later this year.
“I am so honored to be a recipient chosen to benefit from this great scholarship program, and am extremely grateful to the NPCAF,” she said.
Name: Nicholas Brouillette
School: University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Sponsor: Andy Hayward, Panhandle Concrete Products
Dreams of being a successful business owner drive Nicholas Brouillette, a sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, toward expanding the precast concrete statuary business he began with his brother. Brouillette’s major is currently undeclared but he is minoring in entrepreneurship with the hope it will help push his company to the next level.
After speaking with local statuary business owners, he said many were concerned by a lack of interest from youth in the precast concrete industry.
“After hearing this and seeing how much they cared, I became passionate about striving to make the precast industry grow,” he said.
Andy Hayward, quality control and production manager for NPCA Producer Member Panhandle Concrete Products, believes Brouillette’s passion for his business can only mean good things for his future and the industry.
“Nick has spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that his products turn out just right,” he said. “This is a great example of his commitment to the quality standards the precast industry prides itself on.”
Name: Thomas Pochatko
School: Penn State University
Major(s): Civil Engineering
Sponsor: Nelson Wine, Wine Concrete Products
For Thomas Pochatko, a civil engineering student at Penn State University, the pathway to owning a construction business specializing in bridges and foundations is all about proper preparation. As a result, he is very active in a variety of groups at school. He currently serves as the president of Penn State’s ACI student chapter and is also the co-captain and chief concrete mix designer for the school’s concrete canoe team.
Pochatko has participated in several internship programs over the past several years. He’s worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and Clearwater Construction and this summer he will intern with Walsh Construction.
Through his studies, Pochatko has learned the incredible benefits precast concrete products can bring to projects. Specifically, Pochatko said he sees great value in what precast can do for Pennsylvania’s struggling infrastructure system.
“I believe a precast concrete bridge is the best way to go when it comes to fast construction with top quality,” he said. “Last summer, one of the projects I worked on demolished and rebuilt an entire bridge in 18 days with the use of precast.”
Pochatko said he plans on seeking a master’s degree – either in engineering or business administration – after he graduates from Penn State.
Name: Alex Burkhart
School: Texas State University
Major(s): Concrete Industry Management
Sponsor: Michael Clausey, Oldcastle Precast
Thanks to his experience in the industry, Alex Burkhart, a student and research assistant at Texas State University, recognizes just how effective precast concrete is as a building material. He has used this knowledge, which he gained in part through his work at NPCA Producer Member Utility Concrete Products in Morris, Ill., to help incorporate more discussion of precast in the CIM program at TSU.
Burkhart currently serves as a member of several ACI chapters and as the president for the student chapter at TSU. Additionally, he holds the record for the highest-strength concrete ever produced at the school. On top of his studies and extracurricular activities, Burkhart is also a research assistant at the school, where he studies self-consolidating concrete. He will intern with NPCA Producer Member Smith-Midland Corp. this summer.
Burkhart said that, upon graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in the precast industry.
Name: Steven Cummins
School: Eastern Kentucky University
Major(s): Construction Management
Sponsor: Jim Ryan, KOI Precast Concrete Products
Growing up on a farm, Steven Cummins, a construction management student who will attend Eastern Kentucky University this fall, learned all about working with his hands. But rather than tending to cattle and driving tractors, he hopes to work as a project manager or cost estimator after he graduates. His ultimate goal is to become a superintendent or business owner.
Cummins currently attends Maysville Community & Technical College in Kentucky, where he has completed basic coursework before entering EKU’s construction management program. After his father underwent emergency surgery, he chose to stay at home to assist with the family farm business, which played a role in his decision to complete initial coursework at MCTC.
Cummins has worked for Straight Edge Construction for several years, applying the same level of dedication to the company as he does to his family farm. His work entails constructing forms, finishing concrete and operating a variety of excavation equipment.
Recently, Cummins has taken an interest in jointed precast concrete pavement, which he believes provides an excellent solution for the U.S.’s aging infrastructure system.
“JPrCP helps relieve construction delays, makes road repairs more efficient and contributes to a safer construction site,” he said. “This type of technology is what I would bring to my company as I continue my education.”
Name: Andrew Dittrick
School: McMaster University
Major(s): Civil Engineering, Structural & Earthquake Engineering
Sponsor: Dominic Girotti, Hy-Grade Precast Concrete
With several years of experience working for NPCA Producer Member Hy-Grade Precast Concrete in Ontario, Canada, Andrew Dittrick, a civil engineering student at McMaster University, is poised to tackle graduate work later this year. Dittrick, who has worked in quality control and as a general laborer for Hy-Grade, plans to study seismic and earthquake engineering.
After Dittrick earns his master’s degree, he hopes to do consulting work or perform research on earthquakes at a university. He is particularly interested in how precast concrete products can be used to create more resilient structures for those who may be affected by seismic activity.
With NPCAF’s financial support, Dittrick said he will be able to purchase the necessary academic tools that will help him be successful. But the scholarship will also provide him with other benefits.
“I want nothing more than to continue holding this award. It will drive and motivate me to stay proactively involved within my field of study and help me persevere to achieve my academic goals,” he said.
Mason Nichols is the managing editor of Precast Solutions magazine and is NPCA’s external communication and marketing manager.