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Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog
Article by Djuna Gulliver (Adapted from Rhea Engineers and Consultants)
Those with young children and those young at heart may well know the tune “Do you want to build a snowman” from Disney’s 2014 animated hit, “Frozen.” Since then, numerous parodies of the song have been made. But Rhea Engineers and Consultants engineer, Angelica Perez De La Rosa, from the Washington, D.C. area, made a parody that most ASCE members can relate to: “Do you want to build a highway?”
The music video features a young and eager engineer, played by Angelica, who is enthusiastic about initiating a new project. She tries to coax her reclusive supervisor, played by William Johnson, PE, out of his office, where he spends his days invoicing. See the music video here.
ASCE reports the music parody video has struck a chord with grade school children. The music parody video has won Honorable Mention in an ASCE nationwide music video contest. The ASCE music video contest had over 30 entries with two winners and four honorable mentions. The other winning entries can be found on ASCE’s YouTube Channel.
Rhea hopes that music parody video will increase interest in engineering among young children. Please share the video with other future engineers.
Article by Djuna Gulliver
In 1996, Kirk Morgan, P.E., then an undergraduate at Carnegie Mellon University in Civil Engineering, won the Student Award Foundation Grant. While Kirk says the award funded text books for graduate school, he suggests a more valuable benefit was the recognition as a young engineer just starting out. Since then, Kirk has earned a Master’s from UC-Berkley, and now designs wind turbine foundations as a Senior Structural Engineer with Barr Engineering Co. in Minneapolis, MN.
When asked what projects he is most proud of, Kirk points to the accomplishments of teams, with which he has been privileged to work, at various firms. Together, they have designed a freeway in Thailand, a mid-rise office park in Bellevue, WA, a 660 kW self-erecting wind turbine tower, and a 1.5 MW power bolted plate turbine tower. Kirk also reviewed hundreds of wind turbine foundation designs in North America on behalf of banks. When he worked for a certification body in Germany, he helped certify certain foundation designs for use anywhere in the world. Kirk now works with Barr Engineering, one of the top US design firms in wind turbine foundations. Barr has designed over 40% of the wind turbine foundations currently in service nationwide.
Kirk took some time to discuss his career as a Structural Engineer, and reminisce about his time as a student in Pittsburgh.
Question: What do you enjoy most about your current job?
I most enjoy using my particular skills to make us better at delivering technical value and cost savings to our clients. This looks like optimization on most days, but when I think back to an influential talk I attended (in Pittsburgh, at Carnegie Mellon) it really comes down to asking the right questions and knowing that I can make a difference in search of the BEST answers.
Question: What do you think wind turbines can bring to our national energy portfolio?
Wind energy is a proven contributor to our energy portfolio that is only getting better. Industry leaders are calling for the phase-out of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) because it is increasingly recognized that wind is no longer a boutique industry and it can actually compete on cost of energy (COE) with traditional fuels. Real benefits and real jobs exist in a space where we used to just tilt at the giants. Don Quixote would be amazed.
Question: What are the benefits and/or detriments of utilizing wind power?
Any energy project has impacts both good and bad as they all use land of some variety, they are all visible, they all require construction, and they all interface with life on this planet in one form or another. The renewable nature of the free fuel for wind power is simply too hard to ignore. In simple terms the trick is to build the right projects in the right places.
Question: What is one of the most important and/or difficult things about building a wind turbine foundation?
I like to tell people that wind turbine foundations are the closest we have come yet to designing an airplane out of reinforced concrete. The fatigue loads used for tower and foundation design are the result of computer simulations designed to represent 20 years of continuous operation and myriad operational and environmental faults. These are, by definition, dynamic in nature. As a civil engineer trained in structures that stand still, the loads from wind turbines are truly unnerving.
Question: What advice would you give other young engineers?
If you take the time to choose a life's work purpose for yourself and make primary decisions with your career that are consistent with that choice, then you can deal with a lot of challenges that you may not accept otherwise. Of course this becomes more difficult as you get older and the commitments outside work accumulate. But if you have made good choices all along, you will not need a mid-life crisis to change your career. You can use your crisis for something else instead.
The other advice I would give is something my mother impressed upon me at an early age and that is to maintain options. Keep your network. Develop and expand your skills when you can. Do good work and leave people with a good memory of you.
Question: What is your best memory of being a civil engineering student?
My best memory of being a civil engineering student is when Dr. Steve Fenves taught me about strain energy density at Carnegie Mellon for our steel bridge competition. What Dr. Fenves showed me (in a couple lines of math) has shaped how I look at just about every structural deformation question. I look at - where does the energy go? If you cannot answer this question, you do not know how your structure really works.
Question: What do you miss about Pittsburgh?
I miss Pamela's pancakes, I miss golf on hot afternoons at Schenley Park, I miss catching my breath after a jog looking out at the sunset from Panther Hollow Bridge. If you have not done these things yet (gosh I hope Pamela's is still open!) then you should.
In 1988 members of the ASCE Pittsburgh Section founded the Student Award Foundation of the Pittsburgh Section of the American Society of Civil Engineering (SAF). Since that time the SAF has given awards to emerging leaders who call the Pittsburgh Section home. In 2007 American Bridge Company provided a donation of $75,000, and since, the primary award is the American Bridge Leadership Award. Thanks to the donation by American Bridge, the SAF will annually awards the American Bridge Leadership Award in at least the amount of $5,000. In addition to the American Bridge Leadership Award, SAF awards Achievement Awards of lesser amounts to qualified candidates. To donate to the Student Award Foundation, read more information here. To apply for a Student Foundation Grant, read more information here.
*Editor's Note: Mr. Morgan did not participate in the specific projects represented in the images above.
Article by Linda Kaplan
On Thursday, December 4, 2014, the ASCE Pittsburgh’s Younger Member Forum (YMF) hosted its annual December Dinner at the Clear Story Creative Studio on Pittsburgh’s Southside.
The year’s keynote speaker was Bill Flanagan, Executive Vice President for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. His talk “Reengineering Our Region: What’s Now and What’s Next” addressed both the first Pittsburgh Renaissance occurring in the 1940’s and the second which took place 40 years later. He also addressed how Pittsburgh is poised for a third Renaissance in which civil and “civic” engineers will be needed to blend the application of the physical sciences with the social sciences to keep Southwestern PA as a leader of the nation.
Bill sited statistics showing that Pittsburgh is outpacing our peer cities in job growth for the past 5 years, with over 26,000 jobs open in the region currently. He discussed how the city’s population is getting younger, with a median age around 33, as compared to 41 for Allegheny County and 37 for the US. Despite this promising growth in younger Pittsburgh employment, there still is a gap of almost 137,000 fewer people ages 25-45 than those ages 45-65 in our Region – a fact that will have significant impact on our workforce in the coming years.
“It would have been nearly impossible to find an activity to gain more value for one's time than this December dinner and Bill's message,” said section member Karl Sieg, PE.
The studio space provided a relaxed atmosphere for the pre-dinner networking hour and the food from Kaleidoscope Café in Lawrenceville was outstanding. Homemade cookies from YMF members rounded out the evening.
In conjunction with the dinner the YMF held a toy drive to support the Brashear Association. Approximately 20 toys were collected, with an emphasis on items for older children in the 8-12 age range. Following the dinner, YMF Community Service Chair David Wallner and Treasurer Sara Mullaney delivered the toys to the Brashear Association headquarters. The toys were distributed to children and families in Pittsburgh’s South Side area to help make their holiday a little brighter.
Special thanks to our sponsors for helping make this event a success: AECOM, Gannett Fleming, KU Resources, The Lewis Consulting Group, and Lennon, Smith, Souleret Engineering Inc.
For more information about upcoming YMF events or to get involved, contact YMF President Linda Kaplan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Greg Scott (Adapted from ASCE National)
The 114th Congress convened in January with over 70 new members and a Republican majority in the Senate. We hope that ASCE Priority Issues, like infrastructure renewal, will be opportunities for bipartisan consensus and action. Here are some of the ASCE's Priority Issues that the new Congress will address over the coming months.
1. First on the list for Congress is crafting new surface transportation policy legislation for the existing law, MAP-21. The most difficult task will be preventing a future funding shortfall within the Highway Trust Fund, which will remain solvent until this summer. This week, Senators have been encouraging in their statements for a long-term fix to the trust fund. Some Senate chairmen remaining open to an increase in the gas tax, and others endorse the approach. ASCE is on-record in support of a 25 cent per gallon increase in the federal gas tax and will be working with Congress on all options to #FixTheTrustFund.
2. Also on the transportation priority list, Congress is renewing the current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill. This legislation governs policy for the agency as well as provides runway project grants and authority for airports to collect passenger fees. ASCE is advocating in favor of an increase in the current federal cap on passenger facility charges (PFCs). PFCs are fees collected locally by airports and used for a variety of modernization projects including constructing new runways, terminal areas, noise mitigation, and airport access.
1. Congress aggressively moved legislation for the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian oil across the US Midwest to Gulf ports. A House vote on a bill approving the pipeline is mirrored in a similar bill in the Senate. The bill is expected to face a veto by the President. The Senate is still short four votes for the “veto proof” majority of 67.
2. Senate Energy Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has signaled that she and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) want to move a comprehensive energy package forward this Congress. On the Democratic side, that will mean creating a bill favorable to renewable energy, modernizing the energy grid, and maintaining grants for energy research projects. Those interests must be weighed against the Republican controlled priorities of the committee, which include expanding onshore and offshore drilling, natural gas and crude exports, and more oversight over research programs. Should Congress and the Administration agree on energy exports, ASCE will be engaged in the discussion as shipping those products would have a significant impact on surrounding highway, rail, and port facilities.
3. Congress is likely to try to roll back recent carbon emissions regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), one of the most visible anti-climate change members of Congress, will seek to be a barrier to any previous and future efforts to address this issue. We can also expect Republicans to also use the appropriations process to block EPA funding to implement some of their final rules.
1. One of the few pieces of major legislation to come out of last Congress was the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) of 2014. While there is certainly an oversight role for the new Congress to ensure programs authorized in WRRDA run smoothly, it’s likely the real focus will be on recent regulations proposed by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers on federal water jurisdiction.
2. Last year the EPA and Army Corps proposed new regulations defining “waters of the United States.” For years Industry had argued existing water guidance was confusing, prompting the agencies to propose new regulations in April, 2014. Almost immediately, the agencies faced criticism for going too far and extending federal their reach. Numerous members of Congress have called for EPA and the Army Corps to withdraw the rule. We can
expect to see attempts though policy riders on appropriations bills and other measures to stop the regulations from becoming final.
STEAM Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math)
The 114th Congress will have to address the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. ESEA was passed in 1965 as a part of the "War on Poverty." ESEA emphasizes equal access to education and establishes high standards and accountability. The law authorizes federally funded education programs that are administered by the states. In 2002, Congress amended ESEA and reauthorized it as the “No Child Left Behind Act”. Efforts to reauthorize ESEA in the 112th and 113th Congresses made little progress. ASCE is a founding member of the Science-Technology-Education-Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition and will continue to work through the Coalition on reauthorization. The goal of the Coalition is to ensure that STEM education is a top priority in any revision to ESEA.
ASCE supports federal programs to mitigate the impact of natural and man-made hazards. Among the specific reauthorizations or enactments ASCE is supporting in Congress are:
1. The National Earthquakes Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRR) a 37-year old federal program which providing the resources and leadership leading to big advances in understanding earthquake risks and the best ways to counter them.
2. The National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, similar for wind related hazards.
3. The Safe Building Code Incentive Act which seeks to create federal incentives to encourage states to voluntarily adopt and enforce nationally recognized model building codes for residential and commercial structures. Uniform statewide adoption and enforcement of model building codes mitigates the impact of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fire, ice storms and other natural catastrophes.
For more info, contact Greg Scott, at Buchart-Horn, Inc., 412-261-5059, email@example.com
Participate in the discussion of how Congress can accomplish this work by commenting on this blog post, or going to one of our forums.
The Pittsburgh Section is pleased to announce that we have received the 2014 Outstanding Section & Branch Large Group Award from ASCE National! This award is given to one section nationwide which has demonstrated an extensive and well-rounded set of programs for its members, commitment to the advancement of civil engineering, and proven adherence to the ASCE mission. This is the first time that the Pittsburgh Section has won this award.
Upon receiving notification of the award, Section President Kemal Niksic, PE said, “Being recognized as the Outstanding ASCE Section in 2014 is a testimony to all the hard work and true commitment of our members: engineers, students, and professors. We are proud to continue the great tradition of our region’s outstanding engineering corps, and are looking forward to being amongst leaders who will face all the challenges imposed by our aging infrastructure and fast changing socio-demographic and climate conditions.”
The award was presented at the 2015 Multi-Regional Leadership Conference (MRLC) in Miami, Florida on January 10th, 2015. It was received by Section Secretary Coreen Casadei, PE and Director Lauren Terpak.
Additionally, the Pittsburgh Section was awarded an Honorable Mention for the 2014 Section and Branch Diversity Awards by the ASCE Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI). It was noted that “it remains clear to CDI that the Section is making significant and impactful contributions to the enhancement and awareness of the profession through the establishment of your new and very active D&I Committee, partnerships with SWE, NSBE, & ATHENA as well as the representation of women in several key Board positions.”
This award was also presented at the MRLC in January where it was received by Section Diversity and Inclusion Committee Chair Lauren Terpak. Lauren says, “I am happy to see the Section recognized for their efforts regarding Diversity and Inclusion, especially for a committee in its infancy. I have since spoke with conference coordinator Nancy Berson and acquired the contact information of the individuals from the other Sections and Branches that won Diversity and Inclusion awards nationally. We plan to reach out and learn from other groups.”
Our Younger Members Forum (YMF) received the 2015 Eastern Regional Younger Member Council (ERYMC) Peer Group Award. During the MRLC conference, each Younger Member Group in attendance is given the opportunity to vote on the Peer Group Award. This award is given in recognition of an outstanding overall program including technical content, networking opportunities, social events, and community outreach to one. It is the ASCE award voted on by other Sections.
YMF President Linda Kaplan, PE and President-Elect Sonya Flournoy, PE received the award at the conference in Miami. “This is a very significant award and we are honored to receive it,” said Linda, “It’s great to be recognized by our peers as leaders. Everyone involved with our YMF group contributed to this and should be proud.”
Congratulations to our peers and members who contributed to these awards! We would not have had such a successful year without your enthusiasm and support. We are looking forward to continuing and growing our programs.
To find out about upcoming events check the ASCE Pittsburgh website at www.asce-pgh.org.
William J. Confair, PE, M.ASCE, won the 2015 Eastern Regional Younger Members Council Practitioner Advisor Award. This award is given to one Practitioner Advisor in ASCE Regions 1, 2, 4, or 5, which covers the Eastern third of the country. Bill was honored for his substantial efforts working with the University of Pittsburgh – Johnstown (UPJ) ASCE Student Chapter. He is an alumnus of UPJ having graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in 2010.
The UPJ student chapter had the honor of hosting the National Concrete Canoe Competition in June 2014. Starting in the Fall of 2013, Bill served as an advisor to the students planning committee and assisted the chapter with scheduling, coordination for fundraising, interaction with the Pittsburgh Section, securing volunteers, obtaining interest in local companies to attend the career fair, and correspondence with ASCE National. Additionally, Bill regularly coordinates and participates in panel discussion at the University covering a variety of topics including “What ASCE Can do for You” and “Post Graduate Options – Master’s Degrees vs. Employment.”
Bill is a Bridge Engineer with AECOM in Pittsburgh, where he has worked for 5 years. Signature projects include the rehabilitation of the South Tenth Street Suspension Bridge and the design of a new pedestrian bridge for the Montour Trail Council. He also serves as the current Technical Committee Chair for the YMF, organizing tours and speaker events.
Bill took some time to discuss the award and his experiences working with the student chapter.
Question: What did you think when you heard that you won the award?
I felt very grateful and honored that I had won the award. I put a lot of work into coordination with the students and the faculty advisor in order to have the students attend conferences, dinner meetings, and discussions.
Question: What have you learned from working with the students?
The biggest thing that I have learned from the students, essentially what piques their interests to get them involved in ASCE and attend events, is networking: Having the possibility to network and gain a potential internship or full time position.
Question: What do you tell students who are unsure if ASCE membership is right for them?
I tell them my personal experience when I attended the 2008 ASCE National Conference in Pittsburgh. It begins with my attendance and networking skills at one of the younger member events. I met with my future manager and discussed the possibility of an internship. It turned out to be a successful summer internship that ended with a full-time offer once I graduated. Without my involvement in ASCE, I would not have had this opportunity, nor would I be in my current position.
Question: What is your favorite or funniest memory of working with students?
My favorite memory while working with the students is a panel discussion in the spring semester. Our panel discussion occurred on St. Patrick’s Day and a couple of the presenters dressed up for the occasion. We definitely had some laughs and it lightened the atmosphere, which provided, in my mind, the best panel discussion that I have ever attended.
Question: What accomplishments, as either a mentor or engineer, are you most proud of?
I am proud of spreading my knowledge of engineering master’s degrees, among many other topics to students and junior engineers. Panel discussions are my favorite events, because I feel like I have a lot to share with students and junior engineers.
To learn more about ERYMC, visit the ASCE-National Website or visit the ASCE-Miami Website.
Governor-Elect Tom Wolf has designated Leslie Richards as the new head of the Department of Transportation. Leslie Richards is currently the vice chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, chair of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, and a member of the SEPTA Board. As the head of the Department of Transportation, Richards will oversee nearly 12,000 employees and a $7.2 billion budget. She will be replacing Barry Schoch, who will become a senior advisor to the Governor-Elect Tom Wolf on transportation and infrastructure issues, with a focus on implementing Act 89.
Read more about Leslie Richards at Politics PA and Montgomery Media.
SPC Announces Doug Smith as New Transportation Planning Director
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission announced on January 1st that Doug Smith is its new Transportation Planning Director. “Doug is hitting the ground running,” said Jim Hassinger, SPC Executive Director. “He is making plans for advancing our continuing process of improving transportation planning for the region as we prepare the long range plan for adoption this summer and begin work on the next Transportation Improvement Program.”
Doug is well prepared for the job - a registered professional engineer and cum laude graduate of West Virginia University with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. He has been with SPC since 2002 and has led innovative work in development of the regional congestion management process, regional system operations planning, road safety audit program, transportation enhancements program, coordination of the region’s traffic incident management program including multi-state training with Ohio and West Virginia, incorporation of advanced wireless technology in travel time and congestion analysis, and other SPC initiatives to enhance the use of technical tools in project evaluation and analysis for the region’s long range plan and Transportation Improvement Program.
Doug has previously worked in private sector transportation consulting in Pennsylvania, an MPO in West Virginia, and a state DOT in South Carolina with experience in project estimating and technical evaluation including highway and transit, traffic impact studies and the development of intelligent transportation systems. He has been called on by the Federal Highway Administration to provide best practice peer training for other metropolitan planning organizations.
Doug is a veteran of the naval reserves, with service in West Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama, overseeing training in mobilization, readiness and construction. He has been active as a community volunteer in Scouting and youth baseball, and as a trail volunteer, having contributed over 4,000 hours of community service time.
“Doug is a very conscientious, positive-minded professional,” said Hassinger. “All transportation professionals who know him already respect his talent and his willingness to work with people to get the job done right. We look forward to a great new year with Doug as SPC’s Transportation Planning Director!”
The ACE Mentoring program met on December 3, 2014 at Mascaro Construction’s office for the structural engineering session. Approximately 40 students attended this session to advance the design of their museum project. Each group’s museum wing was required to have a hanging piece as part of their installation. In this session the students sized the beam needed to support that load.
The session began with an overview of structural engineering and the many different parts of this field. Following the presentation the students broke into their groups and were guided through a basic beam design based on shear and moment principles. They then used AISC shape tables to select the appropriate beam.
After everyone had completed the calculations, the students participated in a “Cardboard Beam” design competition. Each group was given one piece of 8.5x11 thin cardboard and 24” of duct tape with which to make a beam spanning 12” that could hold up a gallon of water suspended from the middle. Beams could not be solid sections and had to have a cross section under 2”x2”. Many creative designs were presented and ultimately 2 of the 9 tested were able to hold.
Read more about the ACE Mentor Program or the Pittsburgh ACE program, or contact Linda Kaplan, Karen Mueser, or Nicholle Piper for more information or to volunteer for future sessions.
It takes a 24-hour boat ride along the Amazon to reach the city of Tapagem, Brazil, inhabited by 200 Quilombo people. This secluded community offers a rare look at life outside the modern hustle and bustle of the technology age. “My initial reaction was, ‘Wow this is one of the most peaceful places with beautiful scenery,’” says Sarah Trossman, chemical engineering major at the University of Pittsburgh (UPitt). “The people are content with their simple way of life and it was very refreshing.”
Yet, in such a remote area of the country, the Quilombo have no means of electricity, little means of communication, and more importantly, limited options for drinking water. The villagers often resort to drinking river water, contaminated from upstream mining and poor latrine systems. As a result, many villagers are ailed with chronic digestive problems. The community of Tapagem is in great need of reliable, clean drinking water.
In 2013, the University of Pittsburgh chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-Pitt) set out to assess how they could bring improved drinking water to Tapagem. “It is our goal to improve the quality of life of the community members. It is our vision to establish health conditions in the community through education, access to clean water, and proper sanitation,” says Johnathan Maynard, bioengineer major at UPitt.
In August 2013, EWB-Pitt successfully completed their first assessment trip. The EWB team surveyed the community on their current method of obtaining water, their understanding of water sanitation, their current state of health, and their use the chlorine provided by the government. Additionally, the team tested the river water and well water for bacterial contamination. All of the water sampled contained unsafe levels of E.coli. Shockingly, the community well water had the highest levels of bacterial contamination. Given the lack of a Tapagem sanitation system, some bacterial contamination was expected. “But we were surprised that the well water was more contaminated than the river water,” says Trossman. “The well contamination emphasized that whatever we implement in the future must be accompanied by very specific, well described maintenance instructions that the community members understand. We will give the community members the tools and resources they need which will enable them to sustain the project.”
Clearly, EWB-Pitt has their work cut out for them. A second trip is scheduled for the Summer of 2015. During this trip, the team hopes to further sample the river and well water for both bacterial and metal contaminates. They also hope to determine the best water treatment system for Tapagem. Systems under consideration include individual rainwater catchment systems, chlorine drip systems, and biosand filter systems.
It’s not just the community of Tapagem that benefits from EWB. “Being involved with EWB gives me the opportunity to use the skills I learned in class to help others. EWB has expanded my understanding and offered me so many opportunities to gain new skills and develop myself professionally,” says Trossman. Other EWB-Pitt members are additionally grateful for the application of college-learned techniques to underdeveloped communities. “I have wanted to join EWB since I was a junior in high school,” says Deepa Issar, bioengineering major at UPitt. “It’s applying the things I learn in classes to help others.”
There is no doubt that EWB offers a Pittsburgh engineers a chance to use high-level skills for culturally unique yet marginalized communities. “I saw the need in undeveloped nations for access to reliable and quality resources including shelter, water, and sanitation that we take for granted in the first world,” Maynard says. “My desire to change this and to bring to the light the challenges these people face drove me to join this chapter to collaborate with others with aligned goals.”