Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Robert Hoeksema - Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr, and Huber

My externship, at Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr, and Huber (FTC&H), took place during the 2003/2004 academic year. I did this work on a part-time basis over the entire academic year.

FTC&H is an architectural and engineering consulting firm providing services in the areas of architectural design, air quality, civil engineering, construction, electrical engineering, environmental management, mechanical engineering, remediation, structural engineering, and water/wastewater engineering. FTCH has around 260 employees in offices in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, and Farmington Hills. It has annual revenue of $26 million. The main office is located off Cascade Road just east of Hall Street .

The goal of my externship work was to broaden my exposure to engineering practice by working on various projects in areas that were fundamentally different than my previous professional work had been. Three project categories were specifically identified:

1) Development of new technical expertise within the stormwater group at FTC&H;

2) Design/studies outside of the stormwater group;

3) Fieldwork and construction management.

Over the year period I worked on about a dozen projects, primarily in categories 1 and 3.

The primary result of this externship experience is that I am simply a better teacher of engineering students. My experience in professional practice has been expanded to include management and oversight of a stream restoration project in Ottawa County. I have a far better idea of the challenges of implementing a design (including working with contractors). This allows me to better prepare engineering students for the challenges of professional practice. The technical expertise development aspect of the externship allowed me to improve my modeling skills and begin to learn new computational methods. These have already found their way into my classes. In one of my projects I developed new guidelines for the design of stormwater detention facilities. These guidelines are now being further developed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for possible statewide use.

I would like to thank the Spoelhof Family Institute for providing the funding for this externship experience. It was a valuable experience for me both personally and professionally, and I recommend the program highly to any interested Calvin faculty.