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Barrett Romasko: structural engineer

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By Daniel Li

San Diego, Calif., Feb. 25, 2020 -- Barrett Romasko’s path in college has been full of exploration. Romasko, a senior majoring in structural engineering with a focus on aerospace structures, applied to UC San Diego without knowing much about the different applications of structural engineering, assuming it only involved civil engineering structures. His willingness to seek out new opportunities — through on-campus activities, classes, and internships — has been a contributing factor in helping him figure out his interests and goals for the future. 

On campus, Romasko is heavily involved in the UC San Diego Society of Civil and Structural Engineers (SCSE), which has three technical project teams that students can join to get hands-on structural engineering experience: steel bridge, concrete canoe, and seismic design. Romasko has been part of the steel bridge project team since his sophomore year –he was the team’s welding lead his junior year and is currently the project manager. 

The steel bridge project challenges students to design, fabricate, and construct a scaled model bridge that stays competitive in terms of the lightest weight, greatest stiffness, and fastest construction speed. The students start preparing their bridge each fall and bring it to the annual Pacific Southwest Conference each year to see how it stacks up to the competition.

“We start the design process in fall quarter, which generally consists of using a lot of design software and analysis,” Romasko said. “Winter quarter is dedicated to fabrication, so the team takes the design to a machining space and manufactures each component of the bridge. The last stage is construction, which is when we practice assembling each member of the bridge according to the regulations that we received in preparation for the competition.”

According to Romasko, the hardest part of the competition is getting all the components fabricated by the competition in April. That was compounded this year, as the team had to find a new location to fabricate their bridge, as the location they’d been using for 18 years was no longer available. Romasko and his co-project manager got to work and were able to come up with a solution.

Despite unexpected challenges, Romasko has enjoyed working on the steel bridge project the past three years. His favorite parts about steel bridge: the teamwork and hands-on learning aspect.

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Members of the steel bridge team.

“I really like steel bridge because you get to apply what you learn in class to a real project and work with so many cool, motivated people,” Romasko said. “You also start to understand important industry concepts such as fabrication and tolerancing.”

Romasko encourages students to get involved in student groups as early as possible, and stresses the importance of finding organizations that are not only career focused, but also fun. 

“Joining the steel bridge project has introduced me to so many new people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” he said. “It has been a good way for me to make friends who share like-minded interests.”

In addition to their hands-on technical projects, SCSE organizes two main community outreach events each year: Seismic Outreach and Esperanza International. 

“Seismic outreach consists of us going to schools to teach elementary and middle school students about how to design for seismic safety and teach them about earthquakes,” Romasko said. “The goal is to get these students more interested in STEM fields. We also have another event where we go down to Rosarito in Mexico with an organization called Esperanza International, and put our engineering skills to use as we help build houses for the less fortunate.”

In addition to his involvement in SCSE, Romasko is a research assistant in Professor Machel Morrison’s lab, where he works on projects related to metallography and mechanics of materials. He’s also nabbed several internships over the summers, working at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in 2018 and General Atomics in 2019. 

“Internships are valuable because you can get direct experience in the industry,” Romasko said. “The internships that I have done really allowed me to see what I could do with my major and what I don’t want to do with my major. For example, at General Atomics, I was a manufacturing engineering intern; after the summer, I realized that although it was a great learning experience, I wouldn’t want to do it as a career. I feel that it is important for everyone to explore different areas to find what they’re most passionate about, and even more importantly, to find what they aren’t passionate about.”

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The steel bridge team with their bridge. 

Romasko came to UC San Diego thinking that he was going to follow the civil structures route in the structural engineering department, but during his internship at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, he realized that aerospace structures were more interesting to him. Without that internship, Romasko said he fears he would never have changed to the aerospace structures focus.

Romasko is returning to UC San Diego to complete a master’s degree in structural engineering this fall. In the future, he hopes to work abroad for a couple years, either in Australia, Europe, or New Zealand.

“I would love to work outside of the United States for two to three years doing something related to aerospace structures,” Romasko said. “One of my dream companies to work at is Virgin Galactic, which specializes in developing commercial spacecraft.”

Media Contacts

Katherine Connor
Jacobs School of Engineering
858-534-8374
khconnor@eng.ucsd.edu

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