Engineers Week: Pat Dimmer, PE

What inspired you to become an engineer?

Growing up, I was always strong in math and problem solving. I started looking towards engineering after my older brother attended a college open house at Marquette University when he was debating between architecture and engineering. Given my problem solving and math skills, engineering was a far better fit for me.

I leaned towards civil engineering because I enjoyed being outside more than inside, but it wasn’t until my Urban Planning class in college when I confirmed my path. In that class, I was able to select and develop a plan for a real property. The classwork included determining the lot density, designing the infrastructure, and setting the selling price for the individual lots created. It was this holistic approach to development that really sparked my interest and excitement. 

What is your favorite thing about being an engineer?

For me, the excitement is having a different problem to solve on every site. Every site has its challenges whether it is circulation, topography or drainage, and no two sites are exactly the same. It sometimes requires stepping back and taking a unique view of the site to find a solution that fits, then convincing the review authority that this solution will work. 

What is your biggest challenge/reward?

The biggest challenge is often the review authorities and the sheer number of permits that site work requires, particularly when working with schools that have narrow construction windows.  Even without the tight construction window, far too often the site design needs to be so far in advance that we are designing sites before the building is finalized. This can create challenges when our designs need to be altered late in design phase or midway through site permitting when other disciplines begin detailing their work and many changes are made. The reward is when you can see the enjoyment people have using a facility you helped make a reality. 

What is your favorite project you’ve worked on?

There have been so many great ones. Most recently, I loved the way that the Oak Park River Forest High School track coach’s eyes lit up when I showed them a track layout that actually fit on their campus. After being told by others for years that a track would not fit, we stepped in and found a layout that worked, and it got those coaches really excited. It is always great to help people achieve their dreams, and this is just one example of that.