When Ross Hempel walked into the Pikesville Armory in Baltimore County yesterday, he expected to take the professional engineering exam that he had studied three months for.
But just 10 minutes before the exam was to begin, the 23-year- old Marriottsville man - along with some 325 other aspiring engineers - was ushered out of the building because of a sewage backup.
Now the prospective test-takers might have to wait until October to take the eight-hour Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which is the first step to getting a license to practice engineering in the United States, said Dan Parr, executive director of the state Professional Licensing Boards.
The test is given twice a year, typically in April and October. The test dates are chosen by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying and are uniform nationwide.
"The reason [the test] is significant is that you have 325 people who planned on being engineers in Maryland in the next five or six years, and this easily postpones them by six months at least," Parr said. He added that passing the exam allows them to become engineers-in-training and work under the supervision of a professional engineer.
Hempel is one such person. He graduated with a mechanical engineering degree last spring and does research and development for the Department of Defense, helping develop Navy fleets.
"It's crucial in the private industry ... because it opens up job opportunities," Hempel said of the certification.
Parr said he made the decision to postpone the test because the backup had affected buildings surrounding the armory. None of the toilets in the armory were working, either.
"It was terrible," Parr said. "I am very aware that you have people who studied very hard. The fact that we had to postpone it is a tragedy. ... I'm not surprised that people are upset."
Parr said about 250 people took another engineering exam at the armory Friday. He said this year was the first time the test had been administered there. It is usually given at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium, but there were scheduling conflicts, he said.
"My guess is we won't have it there again," Parr said of the armory.
He added that finding a location for the test is tricky because the council has strict security requirements for testing locations.
Parr said that if the council cannot provide a new exam, the test cannot be rescheduled and test-takers will have to wait until October. If that happens, he said, they will be refunded the $140 testing fee. He said he hopes to find out by next week whether the test will be rescheduled.