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March 7, 2017
Community involvement, Education, Virtual construction & technology

On Saturday, January 28, Technical Services Engineer Rachel Krueger and I participated in the District 155 Girls in Engineering Math & Science Conference. The half day conference was an opportunity for girls from 6th through 8th grade to explore careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The district partnered with local businesses and community members to provide hands-on activities in architecture and construction, computer science, environmental science, forensics, microbiology – infectious diseases, polymers and robotics. The day began with a one-hour career expo, which gave the girls a chance to talk one-on-one with women in several professional fields.

At the Pepper table, we introduced the curious young minds to the construction industry, a handful of projects we're working on at Pepper, and the technology we get to use every day. The attendees were given the opportunity to fly through a variety of models from structural concrete systems, to MEP coordination, and virtual mockups.

A lot of girls were drawn in with the similarity to Minecraft and engaged by the idea of seeing your digital worlds come to life through construction. We were able to relate the MEP models, to the inlets, vents, and switches we could see around their hallways. And then discuss the ways we are able to use the technology to influence and impact the buildings we live, work, and play in. It was an absolutely energizing event to spark an interest in these girls that may be the future of our industry.

About the Author


Kristen Fuentes, S.E.Director of Virtual Construction, Illinois

Kristen specializes in creating highly intricate models using Tekla Structures that can be used for design, coordination, estimating, detailing, fabrication, erection, and facilities management.  She joined Pepper in 2015 with over seven years of structural design experience. As part of our technical services team, Kristen has worked hand in hand with the self-perform concrete group to transition to model based estimating and layout. In addition, she works with preconstruction and operations to assist with a variety of other structural services including drawings reviews for constructability issues and cost savings alternatives, advocating standardization and pre-assembly for project cost and schedule improvements, and general structural systems modeling.

Kristen is a featured speaker and trainer on topics about Tekla, BIM and IPD. She holds a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, with an emphasis in Design Construction Integration, from Stanford University and a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, with an emphasis in Structural Engineering, from Washington University. Kristen is a licensed Structural Engineer in Illinois and a licensed Professional Engineer in California. She is a member of the American Institute of Steel Construction, American Society of Civil Engineers and Women in Restoration and Engineering.