Tag Archives: Conference

WSCL 2016

Sunrise in Anchorage (about 10:30 AM)

Last weekend, nine Trojans found themselves on a red-eye flight to Anchorage, Alaska for an amazing experience. Interestingly, four of the members were freshmen.

ASCE’s WSCL, or Workshop for Student Chapter Leaders, is an annual conference geared towards improving student chapters and creating better student officers. This conference is held alongside the Workshop for Section and Branch Leaders (WSBL)  and the Younger Member Council Meeting (YMC). In addition to presenting better ways to run a student chapter of ASCE with useful tips and workshops, the conference also provided many opportunities to network with Younger Members and Section and Branch Leaders within the civil engineering field.

Tyler and Spencer in the Chart Room
Tyler and Spencer in the Chart Room

After arriving early Friday morning, we tried to get what sleep we could before the busy day ahead of us began.  The day started “bright and early” at 9:00 AM (it was still dark) with a warm welcome from Shane Binder from the Committee of Student Members. After spending a few hours listening to speakers upstairs in the chart room , it was time for us ourselves to speak. Up next was the first round of breakout sessions.  These open discussions included topics like community outreach, financial management, and member recruitment.  The sessions were particularly helpful because it provided the opportunity for other schools to give insight and solutions to a problem that your chapter may be having and vice versa.

Following the breakout sessions came lunch where we had section and branch leaders sprinkled throughout the ballroom. I had quite an engaging conversation with a recently retired transportation engineer who did plenty of work in Orange County and even contributed to the Hyperloop project. During the second half of lunch, we were entertained by a special speaker: Norma Jean Mattei, the future president of ASCE and current president-elect. In addition, for the first time in ASCE’s 164 year history, the two upcoming official 2017 president-elect nominees for ASCE will be women.

Interesting discussion taking place in the Region 9 breakout session
Interesting discussion taking place in the Region 9 breakout session

Once lunch was over, we separated into specific region breakout sessions where we addressed possible solutions to various civil engineering and sustainability problems.  Since the session was region and section specific, this portion of the conference also gave us the chance to meet some of our Younger Members and other students from the Los Angeles area. Something that was introduced in this meeting was ASCE’s new movie Dream Big, coming to theaters in 2017. It is a movie designed to bring awareness to the world of engineering.

Next came another set of student breakout sessions, this time geared toward problems student chapters faced. We concluded the evening with a Q&A segment from ASCE heads, and finally ended with conversations with Alaskan job recruiters. Once the evening session was adjourned, we were free to seek out Alaskan cuisine.

Later that night, we attempted to find dinner, and we ended up pretty much exploring downtown Anchorage. Spencer and I stumbled upon Town Square Park which happened to have a plethora of unique ice sculptures. We ended up eating at Fat Ptarmigan, a restaurant that served wood oven fired pizza with countless toppings. The most interesting of them all was the one that included reindeer sausage. That was a first, and it was quite delicious.

Ice sculptures at Anchorage's Town Square Park
Ice sculptures at Anchorage’s Town Square Park

The following morning, we had breakfast with a presentation from Blaine Leonard, the 2010 ASCE president, who presented his Generational Differences slide show. I found it interesting that we live in a time where the workforce is comprised of four different generations with varying values and ideals. WSCL concluded back in the chart room with discussion about upcoming conferences and the location of next year’s WSCL, which will be located right here in Los Angeles.

WSCL group
WSCL group

Despite the six hours of daily sunlight, we definitely made the most of the trip. After the conference was officially over, we did the classic tourist thing: we searched for the perfect picture spots and explored Alaska’s gift shops. Probably the most exciting (and terrifying) thing for a few of us was the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that shook Alaska the day half of us left. Those that remained were safe, and the experience was a reminder that demonstrated just what civil engineers set out to achieve.

Sunset in Anchorage (about 4:15 PM)
Sunset in Anchorage (about 4:15 PM)

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.

ASCE 2015 Convention: Social Media, Part 1

Eight representatives are in New York this week for the ASCE 2015 Convention. Follow us on twitter for updates on our adventures and check out our facebook page for daily summaries. This post will feature a compilation of all of our tweets throughout the first half of the convention to give an overview of what we’re up to!

Half our group headed out Thursday night, the other half came Friday.

That’s One World Trade Center – the tallest building in the western hemisphere! Those of us in CE Building Science are particularly interested in all of the architecture in New York.

… who are our social co-chair can concrete canoe co-captain!

… due to the red-eye flight the night before. This was a great place for a quick nap.

And then we made it and it was awesome!

Check out the second half of our New York trip here, picking up when the actual convention starts!

PSWC 2015 Results

The results are in and one thing is clear — USC ASCE is now a dominant force in the ASCE Pacific Southwest Conference. A year after a shocking 3rd place overall rank at PSWC 2014, our biggest, strongest, most promising team in recent history has repeated with a 3rd place overall finish at PSWC 2015, hosted by the University of Arizona.

Ultimate Frisbee team with their 1st place award.
Ultimate Frisbee team with their 1st place award.

An overall placing at PSWC is no small feat. Over twenty events contribute to the overall composite score, and 18 universities vie for victory in each and every one. USC ASCE has records of placing third overall at PSWC only twice (2014, 1994) in our 91-year history, and we believe that we’ve never placed higher with this many schools in our conference. This is truly a special moment for our organization and our members.

Quiz/Family Feud Team with their 3rd place award.
Quiz/Family Feud Team with their 3rd place award.

Seven of our competition teams placed top-three and all events contributed to our overall finish. I’ll now break down the results for each of our eight design teams, followed by a summary of our placings in all of the smaller events.

Concrete Canoe

2015 Concrete Canoe Team Photo with our canoe, Jurassic
2015 Concrete Canoe Team Photo with our canoe, Jurassic

Last year’s concrete canoe team established itself as a solid contender with the 6th place finish of DiSCovery II, following a 14th place finish in 2013. This year, the team continued to improve with an even stronger canoe, Jurassic.

3rd Place in Concrete Canoe Design Paper!
3rd Place in Concrete Canoe Design Paper!

A new effort to better understand the structural analysis of concrete canoes contributed strongly to a repeat 3rd place finish in the design paper category, as well as a much-improved 6th place finish in oral presentation. While the smallest of omissions in the engineer’s notebook lead to a significant deduction in the final product category and our slightly modified hull design and logistical constraints with practicing lead to  lower placings in three races than last year, our women’s sprint team finished 4th and our women’s endurance team placed 6th. Overall, our team placed 5th with Jurassic, a one-place improvement over last year.

Steel Bridge

2015 Steel Bridge Team with their assembled bridge.
2015 Steel Bridge Team with their assembled bridge.

This year’s bridge team created an incredibly innovative design featuring a complex connection system that allowed the team to optimize cost, weight, and constructability. The design proved to be time consuming to fabricate, but our dedicated team pulled several consecutive all-nighters, including two in Tucson, to complete their bridge in time for the competition.

Despite only having time for two practice runs, the team put on an impressive show in the bridge assembly stage, highlighted by a novel technique of building most of the bridge over the “land” before swinging it around on a pivot to complete construction. The 14:46 assembly time is one of our best in recent memory. Unfortunately, during assembly, a single washer fell off from one of the members—the washers were used to bolt together the members, as per the competition rules. Because of this, the bridge did not meet the requirements and forced a disqualification. But it should be noted that many, many teams are disqualified from the steel bridge competition for various reasons (13 of the 17 universities at PSWC 2015, in fact), and that result does not diminish the quality of the product that our team produced. Our 2015 bridge is one of the best we’ve created and we’re excited to see what next year’s team will do to build on it.

Environmental

2015 USC Environmental Team with their water filtration system.
2015 USC Environmental Team with their water filtration system.

Our environmental team put on a strong showing this year with their water treatment system. They built an impressive structure to house the varying stages of systems and presented their results very professionally. The filtration system was reportedly successful in its initial results, pending further analysis by the judges. In the end, the team placed 8th, giving us a significant contribution to the overall point total and also leaving plenty of room to continue improving in future years.

Geowall

The 2015 Geowall team poses with their loaded box.
The 2015 Geowall team poses with their loaded box.

The Geotechnical Engineering competition this year proved to be a challenge for many participants. Teams built a three-sided retaining wall out of paper. Unfortunately our team’s wall was unable to  hold the weight of the sand when the box was opened due to a variety of factors. But the team put in a good effort, seen in aspects ranging from their strong presentation poster to their meticulously-designed Trojan-themed box. Looking to next year, the team is excited to see what they can do with the knowledge gained from this year’s efforts.

Surveying

2015 USC Surveying Team.
2015 USC Surveying Team.

For the first time in many years, our surveying team sought not only to learn enough to get by, but to actively learn various aspects of surveying to further both their individual abilities and the team’s success. Weekly practices throughout the semester and the help of a graduate advisor lead to a strong 6th place finish that contributed significantly to our overall 3rd place finish.

Dog House

The 2015 USC Dog House Team poses with their food-truck-themed dog house: "A Trip Around LA".
The 2015 USC Dog House Team poses with their food-truck-themed dog house: “A Trip Around LA”.

A new competition this year, the dog house team sought to build a creative and functional home for a deserving dog that featured a geographically relevant theme. Our result was a spacious wooden structure themed “A Trip Around LA”, featuring food trucks and the food truck culture that is evocative of Los Angeles. Making another significant contribution to the overall point total, our team finished in 6th place. After the competition, our dog house was donated to a local animal shelter, which will be auctioning it off as a fundraiser. We’re excited to have this opportunity to support the local Tucson community and create a new home for a special dog.

Concrete Bowling

The Concrete Bowling Team poses with their Spongebob-themed ball.
The Concrete Bowling Team poses with their Spongebob-themed ball.

While this year’s concrete bowling received a “participation” score, their perfectly-round “sponge-ball” was extremely well-executed and well-received. The team is already planning extensive efforts to better prepare themselves for next year now that they have a solid year to build off of.

Complete Scores

Our talent show team placed 3rd with a stunning rendition of "Something Big" featuring an original dance.
Our talent show team placed 3rd with a stunning rendition of “Something Big” featuring an original dance.

Our team competed in every event at PSWC 2015, and every point mattered in our 3rd place finish, winning by only 15 points. Four of this year’s teams placed 1st and three teams placed 3rd, the highest number of individual event awards in our recorded history.

Scavenger hunt captains with their 1st place award.
Scavenger hunt captains with their 1st place award.
Mystery Event Team with their 1st place award.
Mystery Event Team with their 1st place award.
Talent Show Team with their 3rd place award
Talent Show Team with their 3rd place award.
  • Concrete Canoe: 5th
    • Design Paper: 3rd (repeat)
  • Steel Bridge: DQ
  • Technical Paper: 1st
  • Geotech: participated
  • Environmental: 8th
  • Surveying: 6th
  • Dog House: 6th
  • Transportation: participated
  • Quiz/Family Feud: 3rd
  • Scavenger Hunt: 1st (repeat)
  • Concrete Bowling: participated
  • Mystery Event: 1st
  • Ultimate Frisbee: 1st
  • Basketball: participated
  • Soccer: participated
  • Talent Show: 3rd
  • Impromptu: participated
  • Kan Jam: participated
  • Tug of War: participated

Overall

Sylvia Tran, 2015 USC ASCE Technical Paper Author, with her 1st place award.
Sylvia Tran, 2015 USC ASCE Technical Paper Author, with her 1st place award.

I began this post with an explanation of our 3rd place overall finish. But I want to once again emphasize the importance of the contributions each and every one of our teams made. Every single point counts, and our team truly gave this conference their all, fighting through challenges ranging from limited time and budgets to broken noses in the basketball tournament. The shear effort put forth by our team represents a unbelievably solid commitment to our school, our chapter, and each other.

Celebration after placing 3rd overall at PSWC 2015.
Celebration after placing 3rd overall at PSWC 2015.
PSWC Co-chairs Lucy and Nick with USC ASCE President Winston and our *3rd place overall award.
PSWC Co-chairs Lucy and Nick with USC ASCE President Winston and our *3rd place overall award.

With such an amazingly successful year now complete, it’s hard to imagine what the future may hold. One of the most exciting parts of this year’s team is the number of underclassmen, including seven freshmen, we had. Only twelve seniors on this year’s team are graduating, and while they all played significant roles, we’re better prepared than ever to have younger members fill their shoes. With such a strong base of returning members, all eager to recruit others to join us as well, we can only imagine where we’ll be a year from now.

USC ASCE PSWC 2015 Team with all eight of our awards.
USC ASCE PSWC 2015 Team with all eight of our awards.

– Nick Halsey

USC ASCE 2014-2015 Sponsorship/Conference Co-chair

 

P.S. this is exactly my 100th post on this blog. The website and our club have come an amazingly long way since I first built this site in my freshman year (2013), and I’m excited to see where we go from here!

2015 Workshop for Student Chapter Leaders

Six USC ASCE members represented our chapter this past weekend at the ASCE Workshop for Student Chapter Leaders (WSCL) in Seattle, WA. WSCL brings together students from Regions 8 and 9 of ASCE, representing 36 universities in the western United States. WSCL is part of the multi-regional leadership conference that brings together student chapters, younger member groups, and branch and section leadership.

WSCL 2015 (Seattle)On Friday we attended several student sessions designed to share knowledge, ideas, and best practices between chapters. A networking lunch offered the opportunity to meet more students as well as professional engineers, before a keynote presentation by ASCE President-elect Mark Woodson. In the afternoon we did break-out sessions to focus on particular topics such as fundraising, membership, and issues specific to smaller chapters.

We also participated in regional break-out sessions, where we met with leaders at all levels from our geographical region (Metropolitan Los Angeles Branch in the LA Section in Region 9). Our primary focus was to strengthen inter-chapter interactions and our coordination with the Los Angeles Younger Member Forum. To that end, we’re hosting a beach day next weekend with UCLA and CSULB.

In the evening we joined students from a couple of other student chapters (UCLA and CSULB) for dinner in Bellevue, before heading to downtown Seattle for the scavenger hunt organized by the Seattle Younger Member Forum. Newly-formed friendships continued strengthening deep into the night.

11001838_792785960807099_2477080442182864052_nSaturday started with a networking breakfast accompanied by an extremely insightful presentation about generational issues that are likely to be encountered in current workplace environments. Students were also given an opportunity to do a Q & A session with the top ASCE leadership – the president, president-elect, and executive director. Another networking lunch, a leadership presentation, and several other sessions rounded out the day.

Once the conference was officially over, we still had about 24 hours to explore Seattle. Highlights include Pike Place Market, the Original Starbucks, socializing with students from other ASCE chapters, reconnecting with old friends at the University of Washington and exploring their campus, and seeing the Space Needle.

Overall, WSCL 2015 was an amazing experience. We met countless peers and professionals, explored new ideas for expanding our chapter’s goals and capabilities, and explored an awesome, quickly-growing city. I strongly recommend attending a future WSCL – keep an eye out for details about next year’s conference in Anchorage, Alaska (February 22-23, 2016) and the 2017 conference in Los Angeles.

2014 ASCE Global Engineering Conference Panama in Pictures

Five USC representatives traveled to Panama City, Panama last week for the 2014 ASCE Global Engineering Conference. In addition to attending various technical sessions and networking with professionals, we visited several significant architectural and engineering sites, including the Panama Canal and the job site of the Panama Canal expansion project.

PSWC 2014 Results

I’ll start off by putting this into perspective and context. Historically, USC ASCE typically places top-three in one or two events at PSWC. Our 18-school conference, combined with perennial powerhouses in the concrete canoe competition, make our conference one of the most competitive of the 15 in the country.

Last year, our only victory, albeit significant, was our first-place environmental win. This year, going into the awards banquet we didn’t expect much, but were proud of our collective effort.

We started out the awards banquet with a 1st place victory in the Scavenger Hunt competition. Despite having a team less than half the size of many other schools, our focus and determination led us to win one of the most fun events, finding cool spots and landmarks around SDSU’s campus and throughout San Diego.

Our 1st-place-winning Scavenger Hunt Team
Our 1st-place-winning Scavenger Hunt Team

 

Steel Bridge Team: 3rd place in Lightness and Construction Speed
Steel Bridge Team: 3rd place in Lightness and Construction Speed

Steel Bridge won 3rd place in construction speed, completing the construction of their bridge in roughly 18 minutes. They also won 3rd in bridge lightness. Our team ended up placing 3rd overall, earning an invitation to the AISC/ASCE National Steel Bridge Competition in Akron, OH!

Steel Bridge Team: 3rd Place Overall
Steel Bridge Team: 3rd Place Overall

Last year, our Concrete Canoe team had their first canoe to successfully survive every race in three years, but placed 14th overall. Despite deductions in the oral presentation and final product categories due to technicalities, the Concrete Canoe team placed 6th overall and won 3rd in design paper!

Concrete Canoe Team: 3rd Place in Design Paper (team photo interrupted by 3rd place overall celebration)
Concrete Canoe Team: 3rd Place in Design Paper (team photo interrupted by 3rd place overall celebration)

Our paddling team also did well, placing 7th overall. Highlights included our women’s slalom team placing sixth, our 4-person co-ed team winning their heat, and our men’s sprint team winning the small final by less than a second to place 6th, after missing the big final qualification by only a second.

Considering where we were just a year ago, and the fact that most of this year’s USC ASCE PSWC team were first-time attendees, all of these results are spectacular. But as we were celebrating our successes, we won an award that we never expected: 3rd place overall for the entire conference!

USC ASCE: PSWC 2014 3rd Place Overall Celebration
USC ASCE: PSWC 2014 3rd Place Overall Celebration

The overall conference rank is determined by summing all of the weighted points earned for each event, including canoe and bridge, the smaller design teams, and the sports tournaments. To win, a school must be well-rounded, participate in every event, and fight to win individual games, even if they don’t win entire sports tournaments. USC ASCE has not placed this high in the overall conference rank since 1994. Our 3rd place finish would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our entire team.

Here’s the event placement breakdown that led to our 3rd-place overall finish:

  • Concrete Canoe – 6th
  • Steel Bridge – 3rd
  • Technical Paper – 5th
  • Geotechnical / Geowall  – Participated
  • Environmental – 5th
  • Surveying – 7th
  • Impromptu & Mystery – Participated
  • Family Feud Quiz – T5th
  • Basketball – T5th
  • Volleyball – Participated
  • Ultimate Frisbee – T5th
  • Tug of War – Participated
  • Kan Jam (2 teams) – T5th, Participated
  • Scavenger Hunt – 1st
  • Concrete Bowling – Participated

PSWC 2014 Complete Results

PSWC 2014 Event Point Distribution

USC ASCE: PSWC 2014 3rd Place Overall Celebration
USC ASCE: PSWC 2014 3rd Place Overall Celebration

This year, we proved that just because we have a smaller department, fewer resources, and less manpower than other schools doesn’t mean that we can’t be successful. Let’s celebrate our victories, analyze our weaknesses, and come back next year ready to take 1st!

2014 Workshop for Student Chapter Leaders

Four USC ASCE members attended ASCE’s 2014 Workshop for Student Chapter Leaders – Regions 8 & 9 (WSCL) this past weekend in Phoenix, AZ. WSCL is designed to give current and future chapter officers training, while facilitating networking opportunities with other students and professionals, allowing good ideas to be shared between schools.

The main conference room where most sessions were held
The main conference room where most sessions were held.

Conference sessions covered topics from presenting each university’s successes and challenges to discussing how to better connect students from different universities to an overview of the new format for next year’s annual report.

Networking Reception at the end of the first day.
Networking Reception at the end of the first day.

Networking was also a critical component of WSCL. Making connections with other students and with Civil and Environmental Engineering Professionals from ASCE Younger Member Groups and ASCE Section and Branch leaders is important for a variety of reasons. Ideas within and outside of ASCE can be shared, friendships can be formed, and potential career opportunities can be created.

USC ASCE Members with ASCE President-Elect Robert Stevens
USC ASCE Members with ASCE President-Elect Robert Stevens

In addition to the student-focused sessions, several events were held with the younger members and section and branch leaders, whose conferences occurred simultaneously. Highlights included several networking events (including meals!), a speech by ASCE President-Elect Robert Stevens, and a Q & A session with ASCE’s President, past President, and President-Elect.

One last picture with Phil the Philanthropist before we gave him back to the ASCE Foundation.
One last picture with Phil the Philanthropist before we gave him back to the ASCE Foundation.

Overall, WSCL was a great experience where we made new connections and formed new and exciting ideas for USC ASCE. If you’re at all interested in a leadership role at USC ASCE, get excited for WSCL 2015 in Seattle, WA!

2013 ASCE National Conference Photos

All of our photos from the 2013 ASCE National Conference in Charolatte, North Carolina. More details here.