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Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

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  • 02 Jul 2019 3:32 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Kaitie DeOre

     Sketch of Original Cabin Hugh Henry Brackenridge was granted a charter by state legislature to start the Pittsburgh Academy in 1787. It was originally housed in a log cabin downtown and moved to a two-story brick building in 1790. A recreation of the original log cabin stands on Forbes Avenue next to the Cathedral of Learning, which serves as a reminder of the university’s roots. The charter was amended in 1819 to transform the Pittsburgh Academy into the Western University of Pennsylvania, a sister institution to the University of Pennsylvania.

    The Great Fire of 1845 destroyed 20 blocks in downtown Pittsburgh, including all the university buildings, during which time Trinity Cathedral served as a temporary home for studies. In 1846, the first two engineering students graduated from the university, J.B. Stilley and Isaac Morley. After this, there was much debate as to the purpose of the university, if it were meant to be for classics or technical education. The debate was interrupted by another fire, until classes resumed in 1855.

    Site adjacent to Observatory A four-year engineering degree was created in 1867 after Congress passed an act to install military officers at major universities to “maintain readiness in the event of another war.”  After the installment, the university moved to a site adjacent to the Allegheny Observatory which it had taken over in 1865. There were 11 graduates including Stilley and Morley, and the first credited graduate in 1883 with a civil engineering degree was William Carey Coffin Jr.

    The Western University of Pennsylvania became the University of Pittsburgh in 1908, after moving to Oakland the previous year. That year the student body consisted of 34 students in the School of Mines, 102 in Engineering, 99 in Arts and Sciences, and 863 in the four professional schools (Law, Medicine, Dentistry, and Pharmacy). The Co-Op program started in 1910, which was the second in the country, was a program that allowed students to gain a year’s worth of industry experience prior to graduation. The program was suspended in the 1930s but was reinstated in 1987 and has prospered since as a university staple.

    During World War I, the university lead a training camp, Camp Hamilton, which provided ten weeks of military and engineering training for civil, sanitary, mechanical, electrical, and railway mechanical engineering students. Classes were also modified to include military training. As of October 1,1918, there were 1,351 students who completed training as a member of the Students’ Army Training Corps (SATC).

    The Student Chapter of ASCE was initiated in 1918, concurrent with the organization of the Pittsburgh Section of the Society. The program was first accredited in 1936 by the Engineers Council for Professional Development as part of the first cohort of accredited programs. Other University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) programs accredited were Mechanical, Aeronautical, Electrical, Chemical, and Industrial Engineering.

    During World War II, Pitt hosted a program that was designed to prepare civilians for technical assignments anticipated for war. They were non-credit courses that were offered in the evening, tuition free, and were on topics such as engineering drawing, surveying, and structural design. By the time the program concluded in 1944 nearly 25,000 men and women had been trained at Pitt. After the war, tuition skyrocketed with GI Bill recipients. In 1945, there were 592 engineering students; in 1948 there were 2,682 engineering students.

    Construction of Benedum Hall After the GI Boom leveled off, and enrollment leveled off to graduate 30 students a year on average, the university elected to become a “state-related” institution. This provided the school with annual, non-preferred financial appropriations in exchange for offering tuition discounts to in-state students. The effects were immediately obvious, as graduates of Civil Engineering more than doubled in the 1970s. Graduate school enrollment at Pitt also soared during this time, as it ranked 12th nationally for the number of Master’s Degrees awarded as well as 21st in Ph.D. degrees conferred. Benedum Hall was built in 1971, which is still home to the school today.

    The Civil Engineering Department established a Construction Management Program in the early 1990s, led by Alumnus Jack Mascaro and Dr. John Richards, at the urging of local construction firms. Today the program is led by John Sebastian. The Environmental Engineering program became a separate major recently, being accredited in 2016 as part of the push led by current Civil and Environmental Chair Dr. Radisav Vidic. The Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation was established in 2003 and has been a research power-house ever since, supporting both student summer research endeavors and year-round innovative research. Its faculty developed a University-wide certificate in sustainability and a MS degree in sustainable engineering.

    The introduction of the concrete canoe competition took place in 1990, resulting in the start of their team for the 1991 races, a competition that still has strong roots at Pitt. Some recent awards that the Pitt Chapter has received include Distinguished Region II Chapter Award in 2013 and a Letter of Honorable Mention in 2014. Pitt took home Second Place Overall at the Ohio Valley Student Conference in 2015, and a Third Place Overall in 2016. During 2016, Pitt was also selected as one of two finalists for the Richard J. Scranton Outstanding Service Award.

    They have also continued to progress their community outreach, partnering heavily with Pitt’s Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. In March of 2019, Pitt’s Student Chapter hosted their first large-scale outreach event for high school students interested in Civil Engineering, an event sponsored by the Pittsburgh Section, Region II, and CEC. The University of Pittsburgh’s Student Chapter received Distinguished Region II Awards in 2016, 2017, and 2018. In addition, the chapter has been a Top Five Finalist for the Robert Ridgeway Award in both 2016 and 2017, an award given to the single most outstanding student chapter in the world.  Pitt also received an Honorable Mention Chapter in 2019, as well as First Place Overall at OVSC, and also the Spirit Award.

    Additionally, Pitt ASCE’s current president, Kaitie DeOre, was recently awarded the 2019 Region II Most Outstanding Student Member Award for her involvement with the chapter. To date, there have been 4,130 Civil Engineering Bachelor’s graduates, 1,449 Master’s graduates, and 234 Ph. D. graduates.

    H2P!


  • 04 Jun 2019 2:00 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Thomas Batroney

    On March 6, 2019, ASCE Pittsburgh along with Sustainable Pittsburgh, the City of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University's Metro21 held the 10th Annual Sustainability Conference, Smart Cities: Transforming Cities to a New Era. Over 120 registrants ranging from all disciplines from private practitioners and engineers, academia, public sector and non-profit employees were in attendance. To me, it’s a good sign when we attract such a diverse audience to a civil engineering conference. I don’t think I’m being presumptuous in stating that most of us engineers aren’t the coolest people to mingle with for an entire day.

    It’s been a couple months since we held the conference but the subject matter discussed still reverberate in my mind. Before I share those rattling thoughts, if you are just first hearing about the conference, or you were unable to attend, feel free to read up on what you missed. Here’s a link to my pre-conference blog post explaining the importance of smart cities technologies and the greater role they are playing across the planet. Also, terrific post wrap-up articles detailing some of the conference highlights were also published by Sustainable Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Business Times (subscription required), and Fourth Economy

    One the primary reasons I find Pittsburgh such a great city is the immense density of super talented, passionate and smart people. This was on fully display at the conference not only in our lineup of speakers but also in the highly engaged audience. I was really amazed by the collective brain power in the room. I’m pretty sure several people in the room could have powered the USS Requin Submarine that sits on the river by the Carnegie Science Center. 

    Upon reflection, one common theme throughout the day from just about everyone is the critical importance of the human element as we continue to implement smart technologies as part of our infrastructure projects. Smart technologies, if not implemented in an equitable, transparent and fair manner for all people, no matter how great the technology, will run the risk of resulting in a failed outcome. We are seeing the warning signs of this now in Toronto as Don Carter described in his keynote address. 

    So how do we ensure that the appropriate steps are taken in the implementation of fair and just smart technologies? 

    Several of the conference speakers including Grant Ervin, City of Pittsburgh Chief Resilience Officer, and the panel discussion led by Karen Lightman, Executive Director at Carnegie Mellon Metro21, discussed the potential road map to get us there in the Pittsburgh's OnePGH plan and the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UN SDGs). If you have not yet read up on OnePGH or the UN SDGs you should start today, as in right after you are done reading this blog post. Both are roadmaps and examples of how to look at the broader picture regarding building the future of our cities. We should be continually referring to and reminding ourselves of the 17 goals set forth in the UN SDGs and the goals within OnePGH. We should be considering how each of the goals are potentially being addressed – or not – by implementing this project or smart technology. We should be using them to better guide our decisions and engineering moral compass. This includes both public and private sectors. 

    It should also be stressed that ASCE national headquarters have made sustainability a fundamental cornerstone of its engineering code of ethics. Directly from ASCE's website: "ASCE and its members are dedicated to ensuring a sustainable future in which human society has the capacity and opportunity to maintain and improve its quality of life indefinitely, without degrading the quantity, quality or the availability of natural, economic and social resources. Whether you are just beginning to explore the benefits that a focus on sustainability can bring to your community and your engineering practice, or you are looking for the tools to take it to the next level, we can help you build a better future."

    As the ASCE Sustainability Committee moves into planning the 11th edition of the conference, we may explore the UN SDGs in greater detail. What are they and how do we begin to implement these on our projects? What kind of measurable impacts can they have on our cities? This is just a single idea amongst many in our collective minds; we’d love to hear your ideas for next year’s conference theme as well. If you have interest in participating in our conference organizing committee, please do join us! ASCE or Sustainable Pittsburgh membership is not required to participate but much encouraged. The ASCE Pittsburgh Sustainability Committee prides itself on generating innovative, creative, and thought-provoking topic ideas around the topic of sustainability. If this sounds like something that interests you, please join us! For more details, contact me at thomas.batroney@mottmac.com or on twitter @TomBatroney.


  • 08 May 2019 3:36 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Pat Sullivan, PE

    On Thursday, February 21, 2019, Pat Sullivan, PE, an ASCE Region 2 Governor and a Past President of the ASCE Pittsburgh Section, visited Keystone Oaks High School to talk to a group of sophomores and juniors who signed up to learn about a future in civil engineering.  Over the course of the 90-minute session, Pat and the 15 students discussed the various disciplines within civil engineering and looked at examples of each discipline.  Pat also provided samples of a dozen construction materials, including engineered beams, steel angles and rebar, HDPE and PVC geomembranes and piping, woven and nonwoven geosynthetics, clay, gravel, sand soil samples and various sized stone aggregates.  The students were given the opportunity to explore these materials and ask questions about each.

    Additionally, the students were put through several math and engineering hands-on exercises that included calculating the number of M&Ms in a clear plastic cylinder (using engineering calc paper and mechanical pencils of course!), the connection and support of formwork used in the construction of concrete retaining walls, determining the distance between two objects using a transit (pre-GPS), and the construction of a truss bridge using nothing but popsicle sticks, binder clips and clothespins. Winners of the exercises received the cylinder of M&Ms, and two Starbucks gift cards were raffled off at the conclusion of the talk.  Heather Scanlon, the Coordinator of Community Service & Career Readiness at Keystone Oaks High School, commented on Pat’s presentation.  “It was wonderful having him!  The students were actively engaged and really were excited to be working with him.  He is welcome back any time!”

    Pat was invited to present to the students by Scott Albert and Linda Handley who are volunteers of the UcanB Education Program that brings professionals who talk about their careers together with high school students interested in such careers.  Heather Scanlon, the Career Readiness Advisor at Keystone Oaks arranged the presentation at the school.  If you are interested in getting involved in high school outreach, or would like to have ASCE present at your local school, please contact ASCE Outreach Chair Brian Heinzl

    Pat is a Principal and the Water Resource Practice lead at Civil & Environmental Consultants in Pittsburgh, PA


  • 02 May 2019 2:19 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By John Allison, Repost from Pittsburgh Quarterly

    Without civil engineers, our world would fall apart. They are hidden brains behind what we civilians take for granted — all the marvelous methods for getting us from here to there, safe and sound. To observe its 100th anniversary, the Pittsburgh section of the American Society of Engineers has produced an indispensable survey of what has been built around here since, oh, 1681. Helpfully illustrated with maps and lush black-​and-​white photos, it starts with borders for Pennsylvania’s charter and takes us all the way to Uber’s self-​driving vehicles, born out of Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute.

    The subtitle promises the history of roads, rails, canals and bridges. The “more” is even longer: the formation of Pennsylvania’s borders, public transportation, airports and aviation, drinking water and wastewater, navigation and flood control. The 16 contributing authors are either professional engineers or communications officers from the field. They have all struck a fine balance, giving the reader detailed information and history but not in excruciating detail. This is the best kind of coffee table book. You can pick up a chapter and read one passage, and find out something you are surprised to know by the time your coffee is finished.

    Such as: How many bridges are in the city of Pittsburgh? This popular bar trivia question is answered with precision: 370 … to 700. “The total depends on the specific definition of a ‘bridge,’ ” which might sound like a Bill Clintonian answer, but it’s complicated. It’s 370 by “engineering standards,” and 700 if you count ramps, minor structures less than 20 feet, and other crossings that might be considered bridges to the amateur eye. “Any way you count it,” concludes the writer Todd Wilson, P.E., “there are a lot of bridges.” As I said, this book ends up serving the general audience.

    Other various stuff I didn’t know: There used to be a 1 million gallon reservoir Downtown where the Allegheny County Courthouse is located today. (To be fair, “used to be” means 1828, way before Downtown had swank.) The first proposal for the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus building was “an interlocking labyrinth of six-​story buildings with a skyscraper at one end.” The architect was one Edward P. Mellon, nephew of Andrew and Richard, who had purchased the land for the school. That inside job was somehow sidelined, and Charles Klauder’s Cathedral of Learning watches over Oakland today. And why did no one ever tell me that my high school, Fox Chapel Area, was the site of an airport, Rodgers Field, from 1924 to 1934? Further, Amelia Earhart once landed there — and foreshadowing a famous Pittsburgh’s characteristic, her plane hit a pothole on the landing field.

    “Engineering Pittsburgh” will please civil engineers and those who use their products every day.

    This article was taken from The Pittsburgh Quarterly.  See the original article.

    Engineering Pittsburgh is available for purchase.

  • 30 Apr 2019 12:40 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Last month, 258 ASCE members from across the country converged on Washington D.C. to take part in the ASCE 2019 Legislative Fly-In. All 50 states, and including D.C. and Puerto Rico, were well represented by ASCE members eager to talk about infrastructure in their regions. Pennsylvania was very well represented with 13 total attendees, including two of our very own from the Pittsburgh Section, Greg Scott and Justin Brooks.

    The two-day event kicked off with advocacy training and legislative insights from many notable speakers from Capitol Hill.  Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) shared with us his recent sit down with President Trump, and their shared view on needing a path forward on funding for transportation infrastructure. Then Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) spoke to us about the bipartisan work Congress is doing to get a federal infrastructure package put together.

    After the advocacy training and speakers, all 258 attendees were sent to Capitol Hill to meet with their Members of Congress and Representatives. Each attendee was given an advocacy packet, containing the 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, issue briefs, and Legislative Priorities. Pennsylvania attendees also brought copies of the PA Infrastructure Report Card (PA Report Card) which was just issued in November 2018.

    It was a busy afternoon with more than 320 meetings scheduled over a four-hour period, and most attendees meeting with at least two of their Legislators. We were very fortunate to have beautiful weather in the Capitol this day, which made for great sightseeing between meetings.


    This year’s Fly-in focused on ASCE’s three Legislative Priorities for this 116th Congress, as follows.

    • First, ASCE strongly encourages Congress to fix the Highway Trust Fund in order to provide long-term stability and modernize our nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems for the 21st century. To accomplish this, ASCE supports raising the motor fuel tax, which has not increased since 1993, by 5 cents for the next five years.
    • Second, ASCE believes that in order to improve America’s Infrastructure, Congress should return to a regular appropriations cycle to provide adequate funding for existing federal infrastructure and research programs. This would continue to support programs such as National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works, and Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) just to name a few.
    • Lastly, ASCE believes that the development and implementation of a comprehensive infrastructure plan is critical in addressing our nation’s infrastructure. Also, all infrastructure programs and projects must provide substantial long-term benefits, consider total life-cycle costs, be sustainable and resilient, and should leverage state, local, and private investment. 
    What makes the Annual ASCE Fly-In so successful each year are the hundreds of ASCE members who make it their job to shed light on issues that are important to the profession and industry, and to share their local experiences on the subject matter with their legislators. Justin Brooks, first time attendee says, “Coming from an individual who has only ever had an outside perspective from news outlets about what Congress does, I was pleasantly surprised to see how welcoming and attentive the legislators and staffers were to hear our concerns. They appreciated the time we took as constituents to share our concerns with them, and they also respected us as professionals on the subject.”

    To stay informed about state and federal level legislation and learn how you can make a difference, become an ASCE Key Contact today. 

  • 18 Apr 2019 9:56 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    On December 5, 2018, the Pittsburgh Section Younger Members Forum (YMF) held their annual December Dinner event at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA. Of the 62 members and non-members in attendance 11 students were students. The evening began with a networking hour featuring free professional level headshots. Quality, up-to-date headshots are often undervalued or forgotten by some professionals. However, in this age of information sharing and telecommunication having a polished and professional headshot on-hand makes a good impression; be it within a statement of interest, job application, or award nomination.

    Dinner followed the networking hour allowing time for more in depth connections to be formed.   Catherine Bazan-Arias began the presentation part of the evening with an introduction to “Engineering Pittsburgh: A History of Roads, Rails, Canals, Bridges and More”, an ASCE Pittsburgh Section publication written by 16 professionals to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the ASCE section in Pittsburgh. Ms. Bazan-Arias spoke about the challenges and great rewards that come from undertaking a publication of this type. Without the tools of email, teleconferencing, and other information sharing approaches this project that required the coordination of 16 authors likely would not have been accomplished within the 2 year schedule. Learning how to appropriately use these tools is important to advancing one’s career and the civil engineering profession as a whole.

    Following Ms. Bazan-Arias introduction, we were fortunate enough to have two of the 16 authors give a summary of their individual chapters.  Sam Shamsi began by speaking on the history and progression of the wastewater collection, conveyance, and treatment in the Allegheny County.  The first public drinking water system in Pittsburgh began in 1802.  In the 1950s Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) wastewater treatment plant was constructed as part of the “Pittsburgh Renaissance”.  Now ALCONSAN and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PSWA) are challenging the traditional wastewater infrastructure of pipes, pumps, and storage tanks by supporting sustainable projects that include rain gardens, green roofs, and porous pavement.

    Todd Wilson then shared several before and after pictures of bridges and intersections familiar to the downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland landscape. He explained that some of the odd intersection configurations or topography around Pittsburgh resulted from the previous existence of a bridge or industrial route. He gave tips on how to spot areas where an old bridge has been filled in and/or buried to allow new development on flat ground.  

    After the presentations, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy the grounds of the beautiful and historic Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, including the winter garden and light show display. Donations of toys for school age children were collected and gifted to The Brashear Association.

    The ASCE YMF leaders fervently thank all those who sponsored the event. Our sponsors’ generosity allow the YMF to provide these great networking and learning opportunities to college students and young professionals. Thank you for investing in the future of the civil engineering industry!


  • 20 Feb 2019 11:06 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Tom Batroney, PE, ASCE Pittsburgh Sustainability Committee Chair

    On Wednesday March 6th, 2019 ASCE Pittsburgh will be hosting it's 10th edition of its Sustainability Conference. This year's theme is Smart Cities: Transforming Cities to a New Era.

    When you ask a regular citizen what first pops into their head when they hear the words "smart technology" or "artificial intelligence", the answer you will likely hear back is "driverless vehicles" or "Uber". Autonomous vehicles have certainly grabbed most of the attention recently in the headlines, especially after the tragic accident in Arizona last year. Admittedly, autonomous vehicles themselves are attention grabbing and are prominently visible when seen on the roads. Nowhere is this more evident than right here in Pittsburgh being one of the leading test beds on the planet for their development.

    But underneath the surface, "smart technology" goes much deeper than just transportation applications. Entire city operations are beginning to find ways to incorporate smart technology that rely on thousands of sensors and artificial intelligence driven computing power. Cities (and even Nations) are considering it a race to become the "smartest" and most technologically advanced as way to attract investors and drive economic growth.

    Needless to say, "smart city" is not some throwaway buzz word catchphrase. This is real and forecasted future investment in 2021 is expected to hit $135 billion. Yes, that's with a B.

    I ask that you read (or at least skim) the articles linked above. It will provide you an idea of why this topic is so important and why you as a civil engineer should begin to prepare yourself for this changing future or prepare to be left behind. The implications of these technologies are across all civil engineering disciplines and every engineer will likely need to adapt in some fashion.

    You may be asking yourself what does "smart cities" have to do with "sustainability"? And the simple answer is people and efficiency. Research is showing that smart technologies are connecting people in new innovative ways and resulting in more efficient energy systems, more efficient water usage, more efficient waste management, more efficient traffic control, more efficient structural assessments. Increased efficiency means reduced pollution and fewer carbon emissions. During this year's conference we are going to be exploring these technologies with leading experts and learn how smart technologies are at the beginning stages of impacting the Pittsburgh region. ASCE Pittsburgh is once again partnering with Sustainable Pittsburgh and the City of Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto's office. We are also bringing in as a partner Carnegie Mellon's Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, one of the leading research institutes in the world on this highly evolving subject.       

    You as an engineer should consider registering and attending the conference to learn about how your profession is on the brink of experiencing a revolutionary sea change in the very near future.

    For more information on the conference and how to register please visit: http://www.asce-pgh.org/event-3254280      


  • 07 Dec 2018 9:03 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Joao “Jay” Pereira, PhD, PE, and Charles “Chuck” Lanigan

    EWB-CMU Project Symbiosis Sustainable Energy for Schools in India, EWB-CMU Student Chapter Compared to ASCE, Engineers without Borders USA (EWB-USA) is a new kid on the block. Organized in 2002 by Dr. Bernard Amadei, a world renowned civil geotechnical engineer, EWB-USA harnesses the skills of engineers to tackle the challenges that keep the world’s poorest people from living healthy, productive lives. The Pittsburgh professional chapter (EWB-PPC), established in 2008, is one of nearly 500 chapters around the country.

    ASCE partners with EWB-USA and contributes more than $100,000 annually to the organization. The two organizations collaborate on several programs including The Community Engineering Corps, an alliance of EWB-USA, ASCE and the American Water Works Association. According to EWB-USA, this program unites more than 200,000 technical professionals and students in designing engineering solutions for underserved communities in the U.S.

    EWB-CMU Project Symbiosis Sustainable Energy for Schools in India, EWB-CMU Student Chapter

    The ASCE Pittsburgh Section (ASCE-PGH) helps sponsor the EWB Pittsburgh professional chapter with a contribution of $500 annually. A number of EWB-PPC members belong to both ASCE and EWB local chapters, and many aspects of the groups’ missions overlap. ASCE-PGH funding helps support EWB-PPC’s current water treatment and delivery project in Curingue, Ecuador, as well as our local Hilltop Men’s Association Sustainable Farmhouse Project.

    ASCE-Pittsburgh not only supports and funds the local EWB projects, our members and officers also participate in those projects.  Sam Shamsi, current President-Elect was the founder and mentor for an EWB-CMU project in India during 2010-2012; Cathy Bazan-Arias, 2015-16 President was a mentor for the EWB-PPC / EWB-Pitt joint project in Mali (Africa) and for the EWB-PPC / EWB-CMU joint Emerald Park project in Mt. Washington, Pittsburgh.

    EWB-PPC’s membership includes professionals with backgrounds in civil, nuclear and electrical engineering. The chapter also enlists volunteer efforts of non-engineers from fields such as healthcare and education. Pittsburgh chapter members range in age from 20 to more than 60 years old and come from across the country and the world including Oregon and Florida, Portugal, Spain, El Salvador, Mexico, India, and the UK.

    Involvement in EWB-PPC projects gives members opportunities for mentorship and learning, and to gain invaluable hours of professional experience. The EWB-USA $100/year membership is discounted to $35/year for ASCE national members. EWB helps engineers become better-rounded practitioners through collaboration with professionals of different backgrounds. Participation in projects and tasks outside of their field of expertise allows cross-training among volunteers. Recent opportunities include the use of surveying instruments and basic HeartSaver first aid field certification through the University of Pittsburgh.

    The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University both sponsor EWB student chapters. This support provides students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with seasoned professionals who bring a wealth of experience and dedication.

    Roger Lee Price, who recently retired from Penn State Outreach, says of his involvement with EWB-PPC, “I have been meeting and working with a great group of young engineers during the initial stages of an exciting project to provide safe drinking water for a community located in Ecuador. During March 2017, I completed an awesome, highly successful one month assignment working on a project performed in support of the EWB Engineering Service Corps-USAID Farmer-to-Farmer Program in Kosovo.”

    Following his retirement, Dennis Mialki uses the engineering and project management skills gained over a lifetime to improve the lives of others. His most recent project with EWB has allowed him to add Ecuador to the list of countries where he has had the privilege to work.

    Emily Eichner, a practicing civil engineer who formerly acted as EWB-PPC’s liaison to ASCE, came to Pittsburgh from the EWB Portland Chapter. She says her EWB involvement has helped her grow professionally. Says Emily, “[EWB] has allowed me to work on an entire project start to finish, concept plan to design to construction. It is rare that a ‘regular job’ will have room for employees to work on so many different aspects of a project. [EWB] helps its volunteers learn and understand the engineering process more thoroughly.”

    Similiarly, Mike Krepsik is a civil geotechnical engineer who serves on ASCE’s Continuing Education Committee. He was heavily involved with EWB in Florida before serving as a reviewer for one of the Pittsburgh professional chapter’s projects in Ecuador. Mike says his experience volunteering with EWB, “…Provided me with leadership, management, and design opportunities during the early stages of my career. As a young engineer, working with EWB thrust me into these roles, providing the experience I needed to manage small projects. My experience translated into an earlier promotion to a project manager role.”

    Although a volunteer organization, EWB-PPC relies partly on fundraising and grants such as those ASCE provides to pay for travel and materials. Recent fundraising efforts include Whiskey for Water and golf outings that support the current clean water project in Curingue, which will supply potable water to a community 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) in the Andes. Residents currently trek 250 meters each way daily to carry water from a spring that was found to contain e. coli contamination. The project team and community members secured funding, completed a survey, and excavated and poured concrete for the pumphouse. Project manager Ken Hornfeck says, “That community has inspired me in countless ways with their dedication, work ethic, selflessness, and continual demonstration of contentment and optimism. It is that spirit that drives me and our project team.”

    Curingue Water Supply Project, Ecuador – EWB Pittsburgh Professional Chapter

    Curingue Water Supply Project, Ecuador – EWB Pittsburgh Professional Chapter

    EWB participates only on projects where its assistance is requested. Projects are subject to standard engineering practices and Professional Engineer (PE) oversight, and not all projects are accepted. The chapter often collaborates with other local groups in addition to ASCE. For example, EWB-PPC is partnering with the Hilltop Men’s Group in on the Sustainable Farmhouse project in Pittsburgh’s Beltzhoover neighborhood. The project will use solar energy, recaptured rainwater, and green design to build community meeting place and grow fresh produce. Additionally, a new Wilkinsburg project is underway in partnership with Community Forge, where EWB will help replace retaining walls and redesign the play area. Lastly, the Esser Plaza Revitalization project in the South Side is entering its final design and is expected to be constructed in the Summer of 2019.

    Tingo Pucara Water Supply and Sanitation Project, Ecuador - EWB Pittsburgh Professional Chapter

    Tingo Pucara Water Supply and Sanitation Project, Ecuador - EWB Pittsburgh Professional Chapter

    Although the engineering experience EWB-PPC volunteers gain participating in the design, field data collection, and construction phases of projects is invaluable, EWB-PPC strives additionally to see the work done by its members count toward Professional Development Hours (PDH). EWB provides technical experience on diverse engineering projects around the world. EWB-PPC chapter members work in different states and countries and become familiar with a variety of engineering regulation, standards, and practices that help them become well rounded professionals.

    Esser Plaza Revitalization Project, Local - EWB Pittsburgh Professional Chapter

    Links with further information:

    Engineers Without Borders USA: https://www.ewb-usa.org/

    Engineers Without Borders - Pittsburgh Professional Chapter: https://www.ewb-pitt.org/

    Engineers Without Borders – Carnegie Mellon University Student Chapter: https://pittewb.wordpress.com/

    Engineers Without Borders – University of Pittsburgh Student Chapter: https://pittewb.wordpress.com/


  • 15 Nov 2018 12:38 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By Cathy Bazan-Arias

    In 1876 the United States of America turned 100. Likely, several celebrations were held, good cheer went around, and then it was back to “business as usual”. Or perhaps not: many other outstanding achievements were still coming our way.  And, gratefully, people continued to work dutifully on another great century, which was celebrated in 1976.

    Similarly, our ASCE Pittsburgh Section just celebrated our 100th Anniversary and we strove to hold a memorable Celebration and publish a worthy Publication to mark our first centennial. But more is to come! Developments that we can only imagine – for civil engineering and Pittsburgh. Thus, now that the centennial festivities are past, our ASCE Pittsburgh Section is back to our “routine”: busily and strategically coordinating, managing and promoting events, activities, and networking. We must! It’s the foundation of the next century’s achievements!

    Please continue to contribute to our Section’s achievements. The foundation and infrastructure that has made our Section the award-winning organization we just celebrated was built on your participation, your ideas made reality, and your commitment to sharing experience, knowledge, resources and creativity with colleagues, students and the public.

    As we start on a new century, the Section aims to provide opportunities from professional development and participation based on our understanding of the needs and requests of our members. These valuable input is only possible through your communication with us: at technical seminars, holiday gatherings, mailings, or – even better – by joining our Board and Committees.  (More on this latter point in the next few weeks).

    On behalf of the Centennial Celebration and Publication Task Committees: *thank you* for a great century.  Here’s to the next one being even better!

    Special gratitude to the Giants in our profession that provided the shoulders that several of us stepped on including – among many worthy others – Mr. Michael A. Gross, Dr. Elio D’Appolonia, Dr. Larry Cartwright and Dr. Alfred Ackenheil. Dr. Ackenheil is also our “Centennial Member” having turned 101 in October of this year.


  • 13 Nov 2018 10:24 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    By: Carolyn Wehner

    The Pittsburgh Geo Institute Chapter opened the 2018-2019 program year on September 27th at ESWP with the presentation “Emergency Rock Slide Stabilization with Shear Pins: Design, Construction, the Media” by Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero, Ph.D. P.E.  The presentation covered the emergency response to stabilize a massive rock slide in Central Pennsylvania that was endangering a shopping plaza, a gas line, and electrical utilities located at its toe. The potential impact to these features made quick action to fix the slide critical. Due to the threat, the project received significant media attention that played both a positive and negative role in the project.

    The permanent remediation of the landslide involved the design and construction of shear pins (uncased micropiles). The remediation involved partial top down excavation of the landslide. This excavation removed the top portion of the landslide mass to unload the slope. The material removed was used to construct a buttress to provide temporary support of the slope until shear pins could be installed. The shear pins were installed to cut off the landslide slip plane.  

    The presenter, Sebastian Lobo-Guerrero Ph.D., P.E., is currently a project manager and laboratory manager at American Geotechnical and Environmental Services’s (A.G.E.S.) Pittsburgh, PA headquarters.  Sebastian has more than 16 years of experience as a geotechnical engineer and has authored more than 40 technical papers published in scientific journals, geotechnical magazines, and conference proceedings worldwide.  He is a former chair of the Pittsburgh G-I chapter, and a former Director of the ASCE Pittsburgh Section.

    In addition to the technical presentation, the incoming G-I Chapter Chair, Greg Braun, P.E., introduced the 2018-2019 Pittsburgh G-I Chapter board members and highlighted the program year. The Geo Institute’s new board members along with upcoming G-I dinner meetings can be viewed on the Chapter’s webpage.


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