Interview with Structural Engineer and Max Watkins, P.E., S.E.
We interviewed one of our newest team member, Senior Structural Engineer Max Watkins, to find out a little more about his history and character.
Max recently joined Lawson-Fisher Associates P. C. (LFA) to further develop our growing portfolio of structural engineering projects and to continue the success providing engineering services to Northern and Central Indiana and Michigan.
Why did you first study structural engineering?
As a young boy, I liked to build things. I used to take things apart to see how they worked and then put them back together.
What path took you to the position you’re in now?
Before I earned my engineering degree I worked as an iron worker, heavy equipment operator, concrete finisher and laborer. Then as an engineer, I was involved in a wide array of projects that provided me with a wealth of knowledge about the industry. I feel very fortunate for the experience, learning each facet of the job has given me a broad view for problem solving and value added services.
What project has been your biggest challenge?
That would be the Illinois Route 100/106 bridge over the Illinois River in Florence, Illinois. The bridge was built in 1941 with a nine-span truss and a 215’ lift span. It was a complete deck replacement and the lift span was controlled by counterweights composed of big blocks of concrete attached to each end of the lift span with cables. Removing and replacing the entire deck was a balancing problem that required a step-by-step procedure to be developed to prevent the span from lifting-off of its supports as parts of the deck were removed and replaced. As the Project Manager and Designer, I designed and was responsible for the temporary shoring, overhead crane system, counterweight balancing and erection procedures for the complete deck replacement. I also developed a system for delivering materials that eliminated river traffic disruption.
What was the main thing you took away from the project?
The fun of the challenge and the satisfaction of seeing my design work.
What project are you the proudest of achieving?
That’s an easy one to answer. That would be the NSRR bridge replacement in Logansport, Indiana. I provided the idea for and the design of the method for replacing the existing bridge with a new bridge using a roll-out/roll-in method. The support frames were erected beneath the existing structure that extended out on each side to allow a place to roll out the existing bridge and roll in a replacement bridge.
What was the main thing you took away from that project?
Attention to detail. The contractor was allowed 16 hours of stopped railroad traffic to accomplish the replacement. Using the method that I designed, trains were running in 15 ½ hours.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job?
Document everything in a manner that others can understand what, why and how you have designed every part of a project.
What is the best thing about being a Structural Engineer?
The ability to see your designs being built and used.
Max Watkins is a Senior Structural Engineer with a wealth of experience within the industry, having spent the last 26 years providing progressive engineering design and management of structural engineering projects including bridges, retaining walls, earth retention systems, shoring, buildings and specialty structural systems for construction contractors.
Lawson-Fisher Associates P. C. (LFA) has been providing engineering services from its South Bend office to both public and private clients in a variety of engineering service areas for over 46 years. LFA offers a broad range of civil engineering project services principally focused in the areas of transportation, bridges, structures, hydrology/hydraulics and water resources. LFA has been involved in the planning, design, rehabilitation and reconstruction of transportation infrastructure throughout Northern and Central Indiana and Michigan.
For more information of our services visit lawson-fisher.com.
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