Civil engineering students benefit from alumnus' design expertise in new concrete lab facility

finished concrete lab
The finished civil engineering Concrete Lab designed by FAMU-FSU Engineering alumnus Patrick McKee.

If you have lived in Tallahassee for some time you have probably had the chance to see some of the work by Kever-McKee Engineering. Locally, the company has worked on Capital Health Plan building located on Thomasville Road at I-10 and the Proof Brewery Renovation on South Monroe, as well as many other notable projects. Patrick McKee started the firm in 2015 and Brian Kever came on board soon after. Both entrepreneurs graduated from the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering through FSU.

McKee recently had the chance to return to his alma mater to redesign a concrete mix lab facility for the college. The facility was designed as an expansion of the existing materials storage area adjacent to the college’s high-bay structures lab. The area is used by undergraduate lab classes and student organizations, as well as by graduate students conducting concrete research. The covered lab space will soon be outfitted with a temperature and humidity-controlled curing room. 

Patrick McKee
Patrick McKee in 2001 while working on his Master's degree, which he completed in 2003. He is standing near the old outdoor concrete lab space. McKee is one of two principal engineers (both alumni) who co-own Kever-McKee, the firm that did the structural design of the new building.

“We are blessed by the mild Florida climate to be able to do much of our ‘dirty’ work in the area just outside of our structures lab,” said Lisa Spainhour, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the college. “When it rained, though, students were exposed to the elements. The new facility provides a covered space for the students to work in, plus a gravel pit to capture residue before the rinse-water makes it to the storm drains. It’s a huge improvement over the old storage area it replaced.”

“Although it was a relatively small project, it was nostalgic to be back on campus especially in a design capacity,” McKee said. “We are still involved with the college and try to give back by hiring students and sponsoring senior design projects. Currently, our company is staffed with eight full-time engineers or engineering graduates, seven of whom graduated from FSU and one with a bachelor’s from FAMU.”

“Pat was one of my earliest MS students,” said Spainhour, who was the faculty advisor for McKee when he was at the college. “It has been wonderful following his growth as a structural engineer. I was excited when he and Brian started their firm. Kever-McKee has hired a number of our graduates and worked on a number of notable buildings around Tallahassee. I don't know whether I am prouder of their work on the Florida capitol complex, or their work on our little mix lab, where I watched Pat spend so many hours as a grad student.”

What inspired McKee to become an engineer? After growing up in Orlando, McKee said he was inspired by the imagination of several local amusement parks including Disney. 

“I was dead set on becoming an Imagineer. After completing college, I never got to officially work for Disney but our company has had a small but consistent presence at both Disney and Universal.” McKee said. “We have completed several unique projects there including pedestrian bridges at Epcot, limited roles in Avatar as well as additional work that we are not yet able to disclose.” 

McKee had some sage advice for students who want to be engineers.

“It is essential for young engineers to find a great mentor to help them explore all aspects of the field they are entering. In my experience, smaller firms allow young engineers to be exposed to the entire engineering process from conception to completion instead of being responsible for only small portions of a much larger project.” McKee said. “Once you have a great mentor, a young engineer must realize that they are a part of a profession where those that excel see it as a career and not just a job. Self-reliance, independent research, and thoughtful questions lead to quick growth in our field.”