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Artist rendering: A Sumter engineer's story

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 1/25/19

A 21-year-old took her artistic love and combined it with an engineering design career. Now she's the youngest at her job in the city.

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Ever wonder about what goes into supplying water for …

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Artist rendering: A Sumter engineer's story

Posted

A 21-year-old took her artistic love and combined it with an engineering design career. Now she's the youngest at her job in the city.

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Ever wonder about what goes into supplying water for your home, what kind of flow is nec­essary for your sewer line or what factors are involved in paving side­walks and roads around town?

Kristen Nygaard, a Kershaw Coun­ty native, has found a niche – and a good job – working around these aspects of the civil engineering field with the City of Sumter Engineering Department.

At 21, Nygaard is the youngest member of the city's four-person engineering staff.

She got to that point from initial­ly always being "very artistic," she said, but life circumstances didn't al­low her to go to an "art college after high school and study to become a graphic designer."

Instead, with some part-time work experience under her belt mak­ing and designing tools with a lo­cal company, Nygaard discovered through her own research she could work in the field of Computer Aid­ed Design (CAD) within a couple years by staying home and going to school locally at Central Carolina Technical College.

She said she immediately had a love for the design aspect of the field of study – called Engineering Design Technology at CCTC – and still considers it an "artistic-type field," even though some others do not.

After graduating from Lugoff-El­gin High School in 2016, she en­rolled at CCTC in August of that year in the two-year Associate De­gree program.

Through a scholarship opportuni­ty the college offers to high school graduates who meet necessary re­quirements in the greater region, Nygaard was able to go to school tuition free. She said she was able to apply other scholarships she re­ceived toward book fees and other areas and basically went to CCTC for free.

Less than two years later (22 months precisely), Nygaard grad­uated in May with her Associate in Engineering Design Technology in five semesters at the college.

With degree in hand, she began as an engineering associate with the City of Sumter in June.

Now, she spends her days using CAD programming to design tech­nical drawings for water and sewer line installations and repairs, side­walks, driveways, roads and other general infrastructure construction in the city.

Recently, she was reviewing a Manning Avenue sewer line replace­ment project where she had to cal­culate the slope – or angle of the pipe – necessary to ensure there would be enough flow in the line so it wouldn't get clogged.

Another project related to a new doctor's office coming soon to Cut­tino Road calls for replacing older sewer and water lines made of clay, ceramic pipe with PVC pipe. Be­cause of trees in the area, the water line is going to be moved to the op­posite side of the road to allow for ease of maintenance, she said.

Nygaard said she loves various aspects of the position, including her ability to use her creativity, and wants to stay in the field for the rest of her career.

"Not only am I getting to do a 'hobby' – I'll call it – that I enjoyed so much as a kid growing up, but I'm also getting to create things that are going to be around for a long time," Nygaard said. "This work helps peo­ple in their everyday life. It's kind of cool knowing, hey, I did that, and it's going to be there for a long time, and people are going to use it."

"So, I guess, having that impact on everyday life is a cool thing to have in my back pocket."

She called her main professor in CCTC's Engineering Design Tech­nology program, longtime instructor David Tuders, a very good mentor and encouraging.

Tuders called Nygaard a model student who worked hard every day in class.

"Once she showed me her lev­el of commitment," Tuders said, "that's when I was willing to place her in an internship and help her build a career."

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Want more info?

For more information on CCTC's Engineering Design Technology program, Academic Program Chairman David Tuders said parents and students can go online to https://ctech.edu.

He also invites those interested to come out and visit the program at the college's Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Center, 853 Broad St.

More on the field

Like many Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers, pay is good in Engineering Design. Tuders, the academic program chairman, said graduates of CCTC's two-year program earn about $20 per hour on average, or $40,000 annually.

With five-plus years' experience in the field, graduates can earn up to about $30 per hour, or $60,000 annually, he said. Tuders said he has one former graduate who works locally and earns about $70,000.

Skills needed

Tuders said students who tend to do well in the program like math and have good communication skills, or "soft skills." He also said students who play video games tend to excel in the program because of the 3D aspects and modeling.