National Engineers Week student feature: Cody Webb
Civil engineering student, Cody Webb.
For Cody Webb, there’s no greater feeling than being out on the job site.
Growing up in Pinch, West Virginia, Webb was exposed to construction at an early age. He remembers being around the field as a kid, tagging along with his father and grandfather to various jobsites and setting up his own construction projects in the back yard.
“I have always had an interest in construction and building things. I’ve been around it all my life. My grandfather was a homebuilder and painter. My father worked in the oilfields. All of that got me fascinated with heavy equipment and watching how a construction project comes together,” he said.
The senior civil engineering major plans to go directly into the construction industry after graduation, where he can spend his days making those kinds of projects happen on a much grander scale.
“Civil engineering will allow me to have a lifelong career in a field that is related with construction. I enjoy being out on a job site, not stuck doing the same thing every day. There are different challenges you see when you’re out there and you have to come up with solutions. It’s not the same every day and it keeps you on your toes,” he said.
Webb said he chose to study at WVU Tech because he was attracted to the small class sizes and the fact that he knew he would get to work directly with his professors. In his time at Tech, Webb became a member of the WVU Tech student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). He also works for the civil engineering department chair as a student grader.
“I grade the homework assignments for different classes throughout the year. To grade assignments, you have to have had the class previously, so I’m always going over materials I have already learned. It’s like a constant refresher course. It helps you stay sharp,” he said.
Webb’s primary career goal is to become a professionally licensed civil engineer. He’ll have to take a series of exams after graduation and work in the field for some time before he can earn that title. Ultimately, he wants to find himself in a position where he can design simple, practical projects that enhance the wellbeing of those around him.
“Civil engineering is important in today’s world because everything is changing constantly. With those changes, roads, bridges and buildings are always needing to be updated and built to accommodate these changes. To me, that makes it our responsibility to be as safe and efficient as possible and to improve the quality of infrastructure for everyone,” he said.
Outside of the classroom, Webb is gaining experience where he can. Last summer, he worked for a local construction company. He said his time in the field taught him a lot about the way design and practice work together.
“I was out there doing simple stuff like material calculations. At the same time, I was able to help the workers on-site and was able to see the problems you run into in a construction project,” he said.
“I learned that a design on paper and what you’re actually building can be two different things. You can’t always make the perfect design on the first try. Without being there in the field to see the problems and challenges that come up, you don’t always know what to account for,” he said. “But you also can’t solve all those problems without an understanding of design to come up with a solution.”
In his study of the discipline and his work in the field, Webb found that he has an interest in the mechanical behavior of soil and how to design structures in problematic terrain. He said he’s also interested in building materials and was surprised by the amount and variety of materials used in the industry. He’s particularly fascinated with recyclables.
“In the near future I see the field of civil engineering using more recycled materials and using advancing technology to develop superior structures more affordably and efficiently. Right now, engineers overseas are using a lot of geosynthetic materials, which are mostly made up of plastic,” he said.
“They’re using up these old plastics so they’re not sitting in a landfill somewhere. They’re being put to good use as geogrids or geotextiles that reinforce soil. These materials are very durable and, if you use them right, you can do almost anything with them. They’re also cheaper than the steel I-beams and other structural materials we tend to use, which are much more expensive to purchase and install,” he said.
Webb said he’s happy with his college career choice and that he’s excited to start putting his training and education to use. His advice for students considering a career in the industry? Go for it, and don’t look back.
“Civil engineering is a great career choice. There are endless possibilities in civil engineering due to its different disciplines,” he said. “You can be a project manager or a design engineer. You can work collecting safety data for roads. You can do wastewater and drinking water systems. There are endless opportunities. It’s not just roads and bridges. It’s everything.”