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Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering News Blog

  • 05 Mar 2015 9:09 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Djuna Gulliver

    Dr. Jeanne VanBriesen is the 2015 recipient of the ASCE Margaret Petersen Award for outstanding woman in environmental and water resources.  The Margaret Petersen award was established in 2014 to honor Margaret S. Petersen, P.E., a pioneer in hydraulics and water resources engineering.  It is awarded every year to outstanding female professionals in environmental and water resources.

    Dr. VanBriesen is a professor in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.  For over 15 years, Dr. VanBriesen has been teaching environmental engineering and conducting research on environmental systems. Her most recent research includes assessing the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional gas processes.  She is also an expert on water sustainability, and has presented on the energy-water nexus at the Sustainability EXPOsed, Pittsburgh. She is the 2015 winner of the Carnegie Science Environmental Award for her outstanding science and technology achievements in Pittsburgh.

    Jeanne demonstrates a passion for teaching and mentoring the next generation of engineers.  She has given numerous lectures on education, and is active in various educational outreach programs. Jeanne took some time to discuss being an environmental engineering professor in Pittsburgh:

    What does it mean to you to win the Margaret Petersen Award?

    I am particularly honored to be selected for an award named for Margaret Petersen.  Margaret Petersen became an engineer in a time when engineers were expanding their work into large-scale water resource challenges. She contributed to projects on the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers, focused on flood control and water provision, and she wrote the book on River Engineering (1986). She was an engineering professor for almost two decades, known for her practical focus and her mentorship of students. To hear Margaret’s students talk about her influence on their professional and personal lives is deeply moving. It is impossible to say if her greatest influence was through her engineering work or through her investment in her students. To me, she embodies success: to touch the future through professional activities in engineering and personal commitment to the growth and development of young engineers. I aspire to have an impact like Margaret, and I hope my work and my life demonstrate my dedication to following her path.  

    Why is research in environmental systems important to you?

    Environmental systems sustain us all. It is important that we continually deepen our understanding of how natural and engineered water systems interact to enable human society.

    Why is teaching/advising the next generation of environmental engineers important to you?

    It is only through the work of current and future generations of environmental engineers working together that we will solve the toughest problems. New engineers continually bring new ideas and approaches. It is a privilege to work with bright new thinkers who want to change the world.

    Is mentoring future female engineers and researchers important to you?

    Mentoring engineers of both genders is important to me. There continue to be challenges that are unique to underrepresented groups in our field, but there are many professional challenges that we all have in common. Senior engineers have an obligation to share what we’ve learned from experience with all our students and younger colleagues.  

    What accomplishments are you most proud of?

    My greatest contribution to our field has been through the training of my students and mentorship of my junior colleagues, with a focus on increasing the diversity of our profession. I have advised or co-advised 15 Ph.D. mentees to completion, 12 of whom were women. These students (now colleagues) have gone on to successful careers in academia, industry, consulting, and public service. I have advised 26 MS degree students (16 women), and 20 undergraduate research students (13 women), many of whom have worked with me alongside my Ph.D. students, providing the opportunity for these younger students to learn to do research, and for my Ph.D. students to learn to mentor.

    What advice would you give to young engineers?

    Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom and think of new ways to solve old problems. Dream big about how your work will change the world.  

    What do you enjoy most about being a Pittsburgh engineering professor?

    Pittsburgh is a terrific place to be a water engineer. We have incredible water resources here, and we have many water challenges. Working as an engineering professor here enables me to study unique water systems and to use our water infrastructure challenges as a motivator for student research projects.


    Jeanne VanBriesen holds a B.S. in Education from Northwestern University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University.  She is also a licensed professional, and currently the director of CMU's Center for Water Quality in Urban Environmental Systems, and a U.S. EPA Science Advisory Board member.

  • 26 Feb 2015 8:55 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article from Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission

    The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC) is currently updating its long range plan to meet the needs of the region to the year 2040.  The regional long range transportation and development plan is the mechanism for connecting the Regional Vision to the region’s official, coordinated implementation program of projects and actions.

    Mapping the Future: The Southwestern PA Plan builds upon the Regional Vision developed during the Project Region process.  The Project Region process culminated in adoption of the regional long range plan that includes a development scenario built upon well-defined strategies and 16 policies or goals for the region that touch on a wide range of areas.  They are part of the foundation for Mapping the Future.

    The Regional Vision:  Transportation and land use that supports and enhances the regional economy and the communities within it.

    As we continue to develop the Southwestern PA Plan, we want to know more about your priorities on strategies and how you would spend money on transportation in the region. Would you focus on fixing and maintaining what we already have? Would you focus on building onto what we already have?  Would you do both?

    In addition to telling us about your priorities, we want to know about projects that are important to you. Do you have a project in mind or know of one that reflects your investment priorities that would help to implement the Regional Vision? We want to hear about it!

    By taking the Investment Priorities survey, your input will help guide investment priorities and projects for the plan. We will use the results of this survey, along with input from other regional and state partners, to further develop investment priorities and projects for the Southwestern PA Plan.

    The survey should take about 5-10 minutes. Upon completing the survey, you will be able to provide additional feedback if you like. Please feel free to share this message and the link to the Investment Priorities survey below with anyone who is interested. We hope you’ll share your thoughts with us, and encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same as we work together on Mapping the Future.

    Thank you!

    Please click here to take the Investment Priorities Survey.

  • 22 Feb 2015 4:34 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Jonathan Shimko

    Jonathan Shinko mentoring studentsThe ACE Mentoring Program met on January 21, 2015 at the Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania for a session on Water Resource Engineering, hosted by the Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI).  ACE stands for Architecture, Construction and Engineering and is a nationwide program that mentors and inspires high school students to pursue careers in design and construction.  Each year the students perform a design project and this year’s project is to design a museum.  Approximately 50 high school students from the Pittsburgh Area attended this session and worked to improve the design of their museum projects.  Students learned about stormwater issues in the urban setting and ways that engineers are working to improve water quality and reduce peak discharges into our waterways.

    The students were taught basic stormwater management vocabulary and principles throughout the session and were given opportunities to experience and use these principles through hands on and visual aids.  An EnviroScape® model was used to demonstrate how precipitation reacts to different surfaces and the potential negative impacts of urban development on natural systems.  The students were able to see how utilization of simple Best Management Practices (BMPs) can effectively reduce both peak flows and contaminant transport to our valuable water resources.

    Each group of students was tasked with calculating the roof area of their museum wing and then to calculate the runoff volume for a typical storm event that occurs in southwestern Pennsylvania.  They were then able to calculate the reduction in runoff that could be achieved by implementation of green infrastructure (i.e. green roofs or planted courtyards).

    The session concluded with an activity that involved creating a small scale wastewater treatment system.  Teams competed to create a wastewater treatment system within a funnel using common household materials like sand, baking soda, coffee filters, charcoal, cheese cloth and pebbles.  The teams then competed to see whose system provided the cleanest looking treated water.  Every team was able to produce an effective treatment system and had some fun in the process.

    In summary, the students learned simple stormwater management practices and engineering methods (calculations and BMPs) to improve developments within urban environment.  The activities allowed the students to see firsthand how stormwater impacts can be managed to improve the quality of surface waters and the quality of life for people living in the urban setting.  The lessons were well received by the students and it appeared that the students were engaged and genuinely interested in the subject matter.  Everyone involved, including the students and mentors enjoyed themselves while learning and applying water management principles.

    Our appreciation goes out to The Engineer’s Society of Western Pennsylvania and Tetra Tech, Inc., for providing support for this session.

    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.  

  • 17 Feb 2015 10:03 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)
    Article from Gannett Fleming


    Gannett Fleming's Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, office is moving to a new building within the Foster Plaza office park, effective Feb. 27. The move accommodates the firm’s growing staff and provides a more modern and collaborative work environment to enhance their service to clients.


    New Pittsburgh office address; phone and fax numbers remain the same:

    Foster Plaza 8

    730 Holiday Drive

    Suite 400

    Pittsburgh, PA 15220

    Phone: 412.922.5575

    Fax: 412.922.3717

     

    Established in 1957, the Pittsburgh operation is one of Gannett Fleming’s oldest regional offices and provides bridge, highway, geotechnical, water and wastewater, municipal, environmental, geographic information systems, electrical, and construction management services. One of 12 Gannett Fleming offices in Pennsylvania and one of 60 worldwide, the technical professionals based in Pittsburgh provide innovative solutions to a wide array of public and private clients.

     

    “This move brings our 90-person staff together in a more modern workspace that will enhance our ability to create innovation solutions to our clients’ challenges,” said John W. Kovacs, PE, PMP, DGE, a senior vice president and Gannett Fleming’s Midwest Region director.


    From this new location, staff members in the Pittsburgh office look forward to continuing to deliver excellence to every client, on every project, every day.


  • 09 Feb 2015 6:01 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    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.    

  • 05 Feb 2015 10:40 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    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.

    Image from Barr Engineering. Kirk Morgan was not involved in this project.

    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.

    Image from Barr Engineering. Kirk Morgan was not involved in this project.

    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.

  • 02 Feb 2015 6:12 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Linda Kaplan

    Bill Flanagan, keynote speakerOn 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.


    Slide by Bill FlanaganBill 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 lkaplan@gfnet.com.


  • 29 Jan 2015 8:56 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    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.


    Transportation

    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.

    Energy

    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.

    Water resources

    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.

    Hazards

    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, gscott@bh-ba.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.   

  • 26 Jan 2015 3:57 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Linda Kaplan

    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.

  • 22 Jan 2015 1:03 PM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

    Article by Linda Kaplan

    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.


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