Registration is now open for USC ASCE members to attend PSWC 2016! The Pacific Southwest Conference (PSWC) brings together over 1000 civil and environmental engineering students for a plethora of competitions, ranging from concrete canoe and steel bridge to environmental design, sports, and more. USC ASCE members can register for the conference and find all details here.

Here’s a quick summary of the conference timeline and registration costs:

  • December 4th – Priority Registration Deadline (For the reduced payment of $90)
  • January 29th – final registration deadline
  • January 30th – Concrete canoe pour day (Attendance is mandatory)
  • Martch 31st – April 2nd – PSWC 2016

Priority Registration – $90

  • Friday, December 4, 2015
  • Three-payment option available
    • Check (made out to USC ASCE)
    • Cash (Dropped off in our mailbox in KAP 213)
    • Venmo:
      • @Marissa-Knutson
      • Title: “ASCE PSWC 2016 Dues”

Final – $120

  • Friday, January 29, 2016
  • All payments due in full

You MUST become a member of USC ASCE and ASCE nationals before registering for PSWC!  Once you fill out the registration form, you can submit payments to our box in KAP 213 OR give to an E-Board member.

We’re looking forward to an awesome conference and to defending our 3rd place overall finish from last year! Email if you have any questions.

Wilson Mikami Corporation: Newest “Gold” Sponsor!

We are very excited to announce that Wilson Mikami Corporation has become a “Gold” sponsor of USC ASCE for 2015-2016 with their donation of $2000! Wilson Mikami Corporation has been a leading consulting engineering firm in Southern California over the past 10 years. They offer a complete range of civil engineering services consisting of master planned communities, subdivisions, commercial and industrial sites, major infrastructure design, electric utility civil engineering design, parks and recreational facilities site design, school and institutional facility design, facility planning and design, and land surveying, mapping and construction survey staking. Their sponsorship will provide funding necessary to support our concrete canoe and steel bridge design teams as we prepare for PSWC 2016. Thank you, Wilson Mikami Corporation!


PSWC in November? That’s right! This past Sunday November 15, a group of USC ASCE members packed up a U-Haul with past concrete bowling balls, life vests, paddles, and our trusty 2014 canoe, Discovery II. Then it was off to Mother’s Beach in Long Beach for Mini PSWC to meet up with UCLA, CSULB, and Cal Poly Pomona for some friendly competition and canoe paddling practice.

Our paddlers got some great practice working on speed and turns in our concrete canoe out on the water. We got to try out different team combinations and see how well everyone paddled together. It was a great opportunity to see how weekly Sunday paddling practices have been paying off! Despite the wind and choppy waters, our teams looked great out there!

Our co-ed practice team gets ready for a race!
Our co-ed practice team gets ready for a race!

Besides paddling, members from all schools got together for some ultimate frisbee games, concrete bowling, volleyball practice, and even started up an egg toss competition!

Members from the Los Angeles Younger Member’s forum (LAYMF) came out to the event to check it out, show support, and provided an impromptu competition. Teams of four were required to create the tallest structure they could out of a box of straws and a roll of scotch tape that could support an egg at the top. Despite some leaning structures, the end results were pretty impressive!

2nd place team in the impromptu competition put on by LAYMF!
2nd place team in the impromptu competition put on by LAYMF!
The team worked hard to make their structure stand in the strong winds!
The team worked hard to make their structure stand in the strong winds!

Mini PSWC was a great time to get to know members from other schools as well as to get a feel for what PSWC will be like come spring. Although it was the first Mini PSWC that has ever been organized it will definitely not be the last! After getting a taste  of competition and team spirit we are beyond excited for PSWC 2016!

Mock Interviews with ASCE LA YMF

With the career fair a couple of weeks behind us and our resumes submitted to recruiters, the next step to getting that dream job or internship is the interview. Three guests from the Los Angeles Younger Members Forum (LA YMF) dropped by on Thursday night to give us some tips!

We began the night with a presentation by LA YMF President Phil Davies discussing some general hints for acing the interview, and then received a list of commonly asked interview questions that will definitely come in handy during our interview preparations. Our guest interviewers then split up into three separate rooms, and every USC ASCE member got a chance to have a one-on-one mock interview.
Overall, the event was extremely helpful; we will definitely be using everything we learned in our upcoming interviews! We would like to extend a huge thank you to the LA YMF members that took time out of their busy schedules to come out and help us!

2015-2016 Second General Meeting Recap

This past Thursday, September 22nd marked USC ASCE’s second general meeting for the school year.  Food was catered by Chick-Fil-A, featuring yummy chicken strips, chicken salad, and fruit salad for everyone to enjoy. The meeting highlighted several of our recent past events, including a plan reading workshop, internship panel, job walk, resume workshop, and meeting with ASCE Region 9 Director Jay Higgins. The eight representatives who attended the ASCE 2015 Convention in New York City were also able to share their experiences with other members.

Details for the 2016 Pacific Southwest Conference (PSWC) were revealed to the general membership. Design team captains gave updates on their progress, and the PSWC coordinators introduced the official list of secondary competitions. The general USC ASCE t-shirts for 2015-2016, which will be worn at PSWC 2016, was debuted to the membership. The front  of the shirt features the new USC ASCE logo, while the back of the shirt features a cityscape graphic with the motto “bridging the gap between engineering and friendship.”

For anyone who was not able to attend or would like to revisit the presentation, please click the following link:
USC ASCE 2nd General Meeting 2015-16



Concrete Canoe October 2015 Update

ASCE’s Concrete Canoe design is off to a great start! We are excited about all the new members that have joined and consistently come to our meetings! Each week we hold sub team meetings for structures, aesthetics, mix design and construction in addition to our paddling practices every Sunday.

This year there have been some major changes in the rules for the competition, as a result altering our approach to the canoe design. The most significant change is that we are no longer able to use any type of paint or stains on the canoe, therefore we must pigment the concrete itself in order to create the design. In the past couple of weeks, aesthetics has finalized the theme for this year’s concrete canoe and presentation display, which we are excited to announce as DiSCo.

After determining the preliminary design for the actual canoe, the team has begun to research into different potential pigments we can use to achieve the look we want. Structures has been a combination of an introduction to statics for the younger members who have not been exposed to those concepts yet, as well as solving for the moment and shear for various required loading cases.

The mix design sub team started off by going over a comprehensive review of the components of a concrete mix followed by diving into making mixes every week. We have come closer to deciding the final mixes we plan on using for the different structural layers and now we are focusing on the optimal way to integrate the pigment into the mix. Additionally, we are testing different techniques to depict the desired graphics on the canoe, so the mix design and construction sub-teams have been working on producing these elements and testing their construction and application methods. 

Even with the new challenges the team is faced with this year, we are confident that we will once again produce a successful concrete canoe and have fun while doing it!

Environmental October 2015 Update

Even though the design prompt of environmental design will not released until early next year, we will stay in tune by holding 2 series of film screenings. We can learn and expand our understanding of environmental engineering from films covering environmental related issues. This will be an opportunity to get to know each other a little bit more, and have fun!


Our first film screening will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 28th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. The film  Cowspiracy is described as “the most important film made to inspire saving the planet.” Please join us next Wednesday to learn, make friends, and have fun. Snacks will be available as well!

Steel Bridge October 2015 Update

Steel Bridge Team Tests Tools

The design is almost finalized, and by next month we’ll start cutting up the pieces and forming the actual 20-foot steel bridge for conference. In the meantime, we’re currently in the process of creating a small box out of scrap metal. We’ve already cut and grinded our pieces to the correct lengths, and now all we have left is welding everything together. Our next project will be to build a single truss out of the tubular steel left over from last year, to practice for the main bridge.

If you haven’t been involved yet, don’t worry there’s still plenty of time to come out and learn the machines, the design, and have fun!

Bridge Team October 2015

ASCE 2015 Convention – New York, NY

Eight USC ASCE representatives spent five days in New York City for the ASCE 2015 Convention. As the annual worldwide professional gathering for the American Society of Civil Engineers, the ASCE Convention is a phenomenal opportunity to meet other engineers and learn more about the civil engineering profession. After a whirlwind five days of networking and learning, we’re all energized and excited about our chosen field of interest.

This post gives a detailed recap of the conference, key takeaways, and details on our favorite presentations. You can also check out our compilations of social media coverage from the conference itself and from our adventures in New York.

The Convention

Interesting architecture inside the convention hotel.
The convention hotel.

Held at a hotel in Times Square, the actual convention ran Monday – Wednesday and featured a combination of networking events, breakfasts/luncheons, general sessions, and breakout sessions on specific topics. Check out a compilation of our tweets to see its progression here. Below, we’ll detail some of our highlights from the professional portion of the convention.

Networking & General Sessions

The ASCE Convention is all about networking – meeting other civil engineers, sharing knowledge, and making connections. Accordingly, the schedule is built around a series of networking breaks and meals, where attendees can eat and socialize while meeting civil engineers from around the county and the world.

Student & Emerging Leaders Breakfast

Student & Emerging Leaders Breakfast.
Student & Emerging Leaders Breakfast.

We started off the first day with a student and emerging leaders breakfast, where all of the student attendees could network with each other, meet the ASCE President, Past-President, and President-Elect, and learn what to expect out of the conference. This was a great opportunity to get an introduction to the convention in a more intimate setting, allowing us to be much more comfortable going into the larger sessions with the entire conference. Most of the annual convention attendees are practicing engineering professionals, so student attendees have tons of opportunities to talk with professional engineers of all specialties to learn more about the industry and potential career paths. Interacting with other student members also gives us a chance to meet fellow civil engineers that we’ll continue to see at ASCE events for years to come, where lifelong friendships will develop for many.

Opening Keynote Speaker – Luke Williams

Author Luke Williams kicked off the conference with a presentation on innovation. In particular, he advocated for disruptive innovation–a willingness to rethink traditional business practices and explore new ideas. Products lead to decreasing returns, but ideas lead to increasing returns and innovation, because they can continue growing from a basic concept to a full-fledged project. Innovation is most successful when it’s disruptive–it’s important to look outside your existing asset base, avoid “safe” incremental changes, and avert complacency. A good idea goes beyond a prediction to create a provocative response; excitement for the unexpected.

Opening Plenary Session, with keynote speaker Luke Williams.
Opening Plenary Session, with keynote speaker Luke Williams.

With technology as a baseline, civil engineering is poised to see many disruptive innovations in the near future. Perhaps these will come from new materials such as composites, or construction methods like 3D-printed buildings. At USC ASCE, we’re already working to disruptively innovate in our projects. An example is our new, drastically re-imagined structural approach for this year’s concrete canoe (details are top-secret). Overall, Williams’ engaging presentation was a great way to kick off the conference, setting up a theme of innovation that would continue throughout the other sessions.

Business Meeting

ASCE Buisness Meeting
ASCE Buisness Meeting

The business meeting is the annual meeting for ASCE members. At this year’s meeting, it was announced that ASCE now has over 150,000 members worldwide, with 43 international student chapters including 11 established in the past year. ASCE’s “Grand Challenge” is to innovate to reduce lifecycle costs for infrastructure and improve project delivery processes. Most excitingly, ASCE is working to bring more prominence to the civil engineering profession. An IMAX film entitled Deam Big is now in production and will be released in February 2017, sharing the amazing things that civil engineers do and inspiring children to consider careers in civil engineering from a young age. Finally, Mark Woodson was installed as the 2016 president of ASCE.

Industry Leaders Forum

Industry Leaders Forum.
Industry Leaders Forum.

We sat in on an amazing panel discussion on innovation featuring three industry leaders: Andrew Chatham from Google X, David Durham from Walt Disney Imagineering, and David Odeh from Odeh Engineers. They each broke down the new, innovative projects they are working on at their respective companies. Chatham is working on further developing Google’s first self-driving car, which is already at its freeway-driving prototype phase; Google employees are able to “drive” it to work! Durham is working on a new castle being built at Shanghai Disneyland, and discussed their project process–everything from designing in Revit and AutoCAD to communicating between Los Angeles, where the castle is being designed, and Shanghai, where the castle is being constructed. He also showed us Dish, an immersive projected 3D display which allows viewers to experience the castle’s design before it is even built. Finally, Odeh discussed the new technologies being employed at Odeh Engineers, such as a BIM Immersion room (which works much like Dish), and a 3D laser scan model that can be created of any existing structure. He also advised us that responsible risk taking is required in civil engineering, and left us with some words of wisdom from T.Y. Lin, “You have to have guts to be a structural engineer.”

Closing Luncheon and Speaker

Closing General Session with a Portland-themed lunch.
Closing General Session with a Portland-themed lunch.

ASCE’s new president, Mark Woodson, provided a few closing remarks recapping Convention 2015 before turning it over to Gregory DiLoreto to introduce the location for the ASCE 2016 Convention : Portland, Oregon! We saw an amazing video highlighting the must-sees (and must-eats!) in Portland, which definitely convinced us to at least consider attending next year. Next, Don McMillan, an electrical engineer turned comedian, provided a refreshing comedy break and an excellent closing for Convention 2015 over our delicious Portland-themed lunch of salad, chicken, and a fruit tart. McMillan reminded us that “engineers aren’t boring; we just just get excited about boring things” and taught us that “adaptive procurement” is the civil engineering term for ‘stealing’. Overall, Convention 2015 was an amazing experience, and we definitely all learned a lot!

Concurrent Sessions – Technical Presentations

Full house for the Brooklyn Bridge session.
Full house for the Brooklyn Bridge session.

At several points throughout the convention, attendees have an opportunity to choose between five or more sessions being offered concurrently. With our group of eight USC representatives, we split up to learn about the topics we were most interested in. The summaries below discuss some of our favorite sessions and were written by various convention attendees from USC. Overall, the concurrent sessions were awesome because they went into depth on the projects and topics they discussed and included technical details while still being accessible to civil engineering students.

Building the Brooklyn Bridge

The “Building the Brooklyn Bridge” session, part of the History & Heritage topic, detailed the means by which the Brooklyn Bridge was designed and constructed. Speaker Raymond Giroux described the context of the bridge’s construction as an iconic structure that could serve as both a physical and social connector between New York and Brooklyn. Drawings and animations of construction logistics techniques detailed the challenges of building the bridge. While most people interested in civil engineering are probably familiar with the general story around the Brooklyn Bridge and the three Roeblings that served as its chief engineers, Giroux’s presentation went considerably further, showing how caissons under each of the bridge’s towers were gradually lowered into the ground under the river as 272 vertical feet of granite blocks were erected above them. Overall, the Brooklyn Bridge is has proven durable and functionally while also being an iconic, architecturally significant and efficient structure, remaining one of the greatest works of civil engineering in the United States.

The Brooklyn Bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge.

Leading Self and Others

This presentation started off by defining leadership as the art, science, and craft of influencing other people to achieve a common goal and improve an organization. Being a good leader is based in understanding the preferences and tendencies of each team member and the collective group to most effectively encourage everyone to do their best work. During the presentation everyone in the audience was given the opportunity to do a personality type self-assessment using the Myers Briggs test. Then the audience split into different groups based on personality type and the facilitators proposed different questions that elicited different responses from the different personality type groups. This Myers Briggs exercise showed that effectively working in teams means understanding the different thought paths of the different personality types. This means that everyone regardless of personality type, is capable of being a leader. Even though certain skills such as public speaking may come more naturally to some while others have to work harder than others to refine those skills, ultimately leading a team is about understanding the strengths and weaknesses of one’s team and oneself to bring the best out of everyone.

The New NY Bridge to Replace the Tappan Zee

The Tappan Zee Bridge is a 3.1-mile-long highway bridge 25 miles north of New York City. Work is currently well underway to construct new twin cable-stayed structures to replace the existing bridge, and the presentation discussed the process of designing and constructing this massive, $3.14 billion project. With a goal of integrating construction engineering into the design process, design/build projet delivery was selected and a five-firm joint venture was selected as the winning bidder to execute the project. Panelists from the owner, design, and construction management sides of the project detailed the massive efforts required to make the project a reality.

Tappan Zee Bridge Rendering
Rendering of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The geotechnical engineer explained the challenging soil conditions under the river, where 700 foot-deep bedrock necessitates the use of friction piles. To aid constructability of the extremely deep piles, more numerous, smaller-diameter piles are being used. One of the environmental engineering consultants explained how environmental concerns due to the construction work are mitigates, such as by creating “bubble clouds” around piles while they’re driven, to dampen the sound/virbration waves being generated and protect fish in the river. Structural engineers also explained the design of the bridge’s superstructure, with precast concrete pile caps, cast-in-place concrete columns, precast pier caps, steel girders, and precast deck panels that are stitched together with cast-in-place concrete. Additionally, construction engineers detailed techniques for building the bridge’s approaches, by assembling each span in a yard at one shore, then lifting the directly into their place, avoiding the need for extensive shoring in the water. Overall, this presentation provided an excellent overview of the different aspects of a large-scale bridge project, the design/build project delivery method, and types of engineers that contribute to a given project.

ASCE 2013 Report Card: Are Grades Raising?

Panel discussing resiliency.
Panel discussing resiliency.

This session featured a panel of industry leaders doing research to determine the United States’ overall infrastructure grade. The panel discussed strategies to surpass and improve on the nation’s current D+ rating at length, looking at transportation, water, utilities, waste, and other infrastructure, and especially encouraging civil engineers young and old to strive to influence politics. Phone calls and office visits with local, state, and even federal officials cause the civil engineering profession’s voice to be heard and can have enormous potential to sway public policy towards finally correcting our nation’s infrastructure. They stressed that the movement starts with the individual but requires the collective to envision an economic and efficient solution.

Adapting Infrastructure: Civil Engineers Practice Climate Change

Several experts on the topic of climate change defined climate change as well as the levels of confidence for which each effect of climate change is known and observed. The speakers stressed the importance of adaptive design in our infrastructure and low-regret engineering in order to minimize risk in the face of the various and ambiguously severe changing factors due to climate change. This calls for higher resiliency and better structural preparedness for a wider variety of weather and climactic events in the coming decades. Designing above established standards calls for civil engineering advocacy for understanding the effects of climate change and bolder requirements for building design in order to mitigate these novel and eclectic environmental threats. They stressed the need for engineers to think creatively and comprehensively about the most economically logical way to design for resiliency given these new external factors despite the largely unknown extent of their potential effects.

Goethals Bridge: A Case Study on a PPP Project

History & Heritage presentation on Building the Brooklyn Bridge

This session provided a comprehensive overview of projects done through Public-Private Partnerships, or PPPs, through the singular study of Goethals bridge. The bridge, which connects regional markets, airports, and seaports in the New Jersey and New York area, represents a massive overlap of both the public and private sector. The purpose of this PPP – and others – was for the project to be funded partially by the private company involved, and primarily by loaned capital from major banks or similar financial institutions. This allows the public sector to complete large and urgent projects with the efficiency of the private sector, without needing the initial capital to fund the project outright. The key to the successful implementation of this PPP project was the flexible by explicitly defined roles and responsibilities for both the public and the private partners.

Diversity & Inclusion in Civil Engineering

In this session the panel discussed the future of civil engineering in terms of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We learned that diversity applies to everyone; we are all from different backgrounds and have experienced different things, which allows us to form a variety of different opinions. Having discussions with a diverse group of people allows us to acknowledge our personal biases and form valuable connections. Companies are now working to promote inclusion to make people with diverse backgrounds feel more valuable and important; employers are now recognizing that accommodating the needs of diverse employees helps with overall productivity and efficiency.

New York City

Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park.

We arrived in New York a couple of days before the main convention started so that we could explore the city. Given our interest in civil engineering and the built environment, we took particular interest in the great historical and modern architectural and engineering achievements in the city. Check out our tweets about our adventures here, and read about some of our favorite places below!

1.The High Line

23rd St. Lawn on the High Line. The building under construction in the background is the first in the Hudson Yards development project.

A former rail line that was recently renovated into a park, the High Line is full of amazing views of the city and some really interesting architecture. We enjoyed walking around and taking in the sights of the city!

2. Central Park

View from the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, over central park.
View from the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, over central park.

It is mind blowing how big Central Park truly is! We spent a lot of time here and still didn’t even cover half of the park. Central Park is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and be surrounded by some nature.

3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art - main lobby.
Metropolitan Museum of Art – main lobby.

The largest art museum in the United States, the Met is full of art from all different time periods and geographic locations. We enjoyed getting to stroll through the museum and take in the amazing sights, like the massive painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware” and the amazing display of the “Temple of Dendur” in the Egyptian Wing. In addition to housing amazing art, the building itself is architecturally impeccable, featuring a wide variety of exciting spaces while serving its purpose as a museum well.

4. The Guggenheim

The spiral gallery at the Guggenheim Museum.
The spiral gallery at the Guggenheim Museum.

Although the art by Alberto Burri was quite interesting, the real highlight of the Guggenheim is the building itself! Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the large cylindrical building houses a unique “ramp gallery” for the art, where the path spirals around the perimeter of the building for an optimal flow while viewing the art.

5. Top of the Rock

Panorama from Top of the Rock
Panorama from Top of the Rock

The pictures really don’t do it justice, but taking in the New York Skyline from on top of Rockefeller Center was unbelievable. We managed to get tickets for the best time, because we got to enjoy the sunset through the skyline, and then also see the lights of the city turn on!

6. World Trade Center / 9-11 Memorial

One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial building.
One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial building.

We visited the World Trade Center site, where the 9/11 memorial, One World Trade Center, and Four World Trade Center are complete, and work is quickly progressing on Three World Trade Center. The project is a massive civil engineering feat in terms of both design and construction – the hundreds of trees arranged in neat rows with rows of drains built over a massive subterranean complex were particularly impressive.

7. Little Italy

Dinner in Little Italy.
Dinner in Little Italy.

A trip to New York is incomplete without food in Little Italy! We enjoyed enormous portions of pasta at a delicious restaurant, and then stopped by a dessert place to get some cannoli’s.

8. The Halal Guys

The Halal Guys food cart.
The Halal Guys food cart.

After a long day walking around the city probably one of the best meals we ate was at Halal Guys, which is a food cart in the city. They serve big portions of gyro and rice, and our entire group finished their meal!

9. Brooklyn Bridge Park

After learning about the Brooklyn Bridge at conference, we had to make sure to check in out in person. The Brooklyn Bridge Park offers stunning views of not only the bridge, but also the Statue of Liberty and the city skyline.

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park.
View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Overall, the convention and the city of New York offered an experience that we’ll never forget. We’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to attend, thanks largely to USC’s Undergraduate Student Government, which funded our registration costs. In closing, here are our favorite moments from the convention in picture form. It’s worth noting that the taking of selfies was facilitated by selfie sticks provided by ASCE!

ASCE 2015 Convention: Social Media, Part 2

We’ve been live-tweeting from the ASCE 2015 Convention in New York City, sharing our experiences exploring the city and attending the conference. This post is a compilation of all of the tweets during the actual convention, from Monday-Wednesday – we’ll update it daily with new tweets as they come in! Also check out part 1 – our adventures in New York.

American Society of Civil Engineers Student Chapter at the University of Southern California

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