CE Club 2014-2015 Recap!

Civil Engineering Club at Woodrow Wilson High School (2014-2015)

After leading one of the few Civil Engineering Club pilot programs for ASCE National in early 2013, the ASCE Dallas Branch has grown the club at Woodrow Wilson High School in east Dallas into one of the most successful CE Clubs in the nation. The goal of the club is to get high school students interested and hooked on civil engineering through interactions with practicing engineers. Over the course of the school year, professionals from all branches of civil engineering served as “substitute teachers” for a day while presenting to all four upper level civil engineering classes. Last year over fifteen civil engineering professionals took time out of their busy work days to come present. A full recap of the 2013-2014 school year can be found here.

WWHS was a natural fit for implementing CE Club in that they actually have an “Engineering Academy” sponsored by Project Lead the Way and lead by Mr. Brandon Carver, the teacher that so graciously opened up his classroom to ASCE Dallas. The Engineering Academy allows students to take engineering classes through all four years of high school, allowing students the choice to focus on either aerospace or civil engineering in their final two years. At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, WWHS received their certification from Project Lead the Way, making it the first school in the Dallas Independent School District to do so. The presence of the CE Club, along with all the guest professional speakers, was a major factor in WWHS earning this certification.

Below are some of the highlights from the 2014-2015 school year: 

Civil Engineering Students from Southern Methodist University (SMU)

Jason Lehigh, Matthew Jameson, Emily Portillo, and Kaylee Dusek started off the school year by coming to Woodrow Wilson High School CE Club to share their college experiences in the civil engineering program at SMU. Mr. Carver felt it was important that the club meetings start with college students so that the high school students could see what is possible in the immediate future as they start to research and apply to engineering colleges. The presentation centered around the SMU students’ internships outside of school, but the high school students were also given the opportunity to ask questions about college applications, scholarships, classes, and general challenges that come with starting an engineering education at a major university. The high school students were very impressed with the impact they could make in the professional workplace even as a college intern.


 Civil Engineers from Foresite Group

Maria Eichhold, Sean Faulkner, Josh McNeil, David Norris, David King, and Ricky Carreno from Foresite Group all took time out of their day to present to all 4 civil engineering class periods. They led a group activity that illustrated to the high school students how land development teams must work together to achieve an under-budget, efficient, profitable, and welcoming community. Each student was given a specific role to personify while on a team in the development process:


  • Developer – interested in getting the most return on investment
  • Home Owner’s Association Chair – concerned with the long term residents of the community and the impact the development will have on property values, quality of life, and comfort
  • City Planner – concerned about boosting the city’s economy while also meeting the community needs
  • City Economic Developer – interested in the revenue the new development will generate and the jobs that will be created
  • Mayor – up for re-election and interested in making the community members as happy as possible; gives the final approval of the layout


Students were given a site plan with four blank city blocks. They were given a budget and a list of possible buildings and spaces that could fill up these four blocks, along with a cost associated with each building or space. Students then had to assume their roles within the development team and decide where and how many grocery stores, houses, apartment complexes, strips malls, pharmacies, parks, homeless shelters, schools, and community centers would be placed on the site plan. Students quickly realized the importance of patience and communication when each team member has a different agenda for the development. Once a site layout was approved by the “mayor”, each group had to present their new development to the whole class while justifying the decisions they had made. The Foresite Group engineers then offered constructive feedback of each team’s development. More pictures from the land development activity can be found on the ASCE Dallas website here.

Water Resources Engineer from Kimley-Horn and Associates

Ashlyn Kelbly was a repeat presenter at Woodrow Wilson High School this year and came up with yet another challenging activity for the civil engineering students. The presentation started off with a brief discussion on how water is moved from one location and/or elevation to another in municipalities. Students were then asked to consider and discuss the challenges involved with moving water across terrain. This activity was especially appealing to the high school students since it was based off of a master planning project that Ashlyn is currently working on.


Students were given a city map with a water delivery point and three developments, or “demand points” at varying elevations. They then had to work in their teams to develop an infrastructure system of pumps, pipelines, and elevated & ground storage tanks to adequately meet the demand at each development while meeting certain TCEQ criteria and minimizing cost. Students learned about factors impacting friction headloss and used a spreadsheet to determine necessary pipe diameters. Students also learned about pumps and determined head gain from pump curves. The opportunity to develop mock solutions for a real-world application allowed the students to understand the greater effects of civil engineering on the community and the art of balancing physical constraints with public policy.  

Field Trip with Corgan Associates, L.A. Fuess Partners, and Hill & Wilkinson

Fifteen of the highest-achieving students in Mr. Carver’s civil engineering classes had the opportunity to go on a day-long field trip where they learned about all the different phases of the design process. The trip started off in the morning with a stop at Corgan Associates, a major architecture firm in Dallas with offices all over the nation. Janah St. Luce, an architect at Corgan, explained the building process from an architect’s perspective, and how a building gets carried from concept to fully operational for the building owner. Janah also showcased some of the technology architects use on a daily basis, including Revit, which the students learn to use in their civil engineering class. The students were then taken on a tour through Corgan’s building and had the opportunity to observe some of the work being done in their state-of-the-art Media Lab.

After lunch, the students made their way over to the office of L.A. Fuess Partners, a structural engineering firm in Dallas. Travis Piesker and Jonathan Brower gave the students a brief presentation over a project that is currently under construction in uptown Dallas. Students were briefed on the structural design of the two-way flat plate garage slabs below grade and the post-tensioned podium slab above grade which will have 5 levels of wood-framed apartments built on top of it. Jonathan also took time to give the students a simplified explanation of post-tensioned concrete design since this was the primary structural system used on the project. Following this presentation, the students were taken around the LAFP office where they had the opportunity to see the structural engineers' workspaces and some of the design and modeling software used by the engineers. Everyone was then given a hard hat and safety vest and loaded back into the school van to visit the project site they just learned about.

Once out at the construction site, Luke Stenoien of Hill & Wilkinson welcomed the students, gave a brief job site safety lecture, and then led them out into the construction site. As they walked the site, Luke described the shoring and formwork system used during the construction of concrete buildings. The project was in a great phase of construction that exhibited formwork being assembled, mild and post-tensioned reinforcing being laid out, concrete slab finishing, and some of the completed garage levels below grade for the students to observe. This was by far the students' favorite part of the day and they did not hesitate to ask questions of the contractor and engineers on site. Additional pictures from the site visit and the rest of the day can be found here.


MEP Engineer from Bury, Inc.

Priscilla Maya, a mechanical engineer at Bury Inc., gave the students a presentation on MEP systems within the built environment. As a mentor in the DFW Affiliate for the ACE Mentor Program, Priscilla was a strong asset to the CE Club as she is extremely passionate about her career as an engineer and sharing it with high school students. She showed them illustrations of how heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are set up in buildings just like the school they walk into every day. She even pointed out the different elements of the heating and air conditioning system in Mr. Carver's classroom such as the thermostat and ceiling diffusers. The students were also shown how to calculate the "load" in a building from the perspective of an MEP engineer. The building skin, interior partitions, occupants, and equipment such as computers and machinery all affect how an interior space must be conditioned and ventilated. The students were asked to consider the "load" in their classroom and how this could affect the design and performance of the school's mechanical systems. The students were very impressed that some of the terminology and equations used in their class curriculum were used by Priscilla in her daily work as an MEP engineer. This direct connection between the concepts learned in class and the practical application by a "real-life" engineer are a great encouragement and motivation for the students in Mr. Carver's classes.

The students then put these concepts and theories to work, collaborating in teams to design a balloon race car out of foam core board, cardboard, dowels, and plastic straws. The greatest challenge was to maximize the thrust out of one or multiple straws to make their race car go the farthest. Some race cars were faster than others, as seen in this video. Additional pictures from the presentation, race car construction, and race car testing can be found here.

Structural Engineers from L.A. Fuess Partners

James Kleineck and Phillip Pesek initiated a two-part series with the Civil Engineering Club by talking to students about the engineering design method and how it is applied to structural engineering. James began by asking students to define terms such as engineering, structure, load, and structural engineering while also considering what structures are around them as they go through a normal day. The intent of the exercise was to illustrate where structural engineering is used in obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Phil then led the students through a design example using a simply=supported beam with a concentrated point load applied at mid-span. Students were given a brief introduction into beam deflection and moment equations as well as the properties of various building materials and section properties. A student or two from each class was then asked to come up to the board and work through the problem while the audience helped with calculations. Mr. Carver assigned the design problem as homework over the weekend as a complementary item to the concurrent structural engineering portion of their curriculum. Students would be given the opportunity to build and test their own beam design in a couple of weeks for a “build-a-beam” activity with the hope that the students could build upon and apply the lessons learned from this presentation and the curriculum being taught by Mr. Carver.


Build-a-Beam with L.A. Fuess Partners

Steven Blair, Jared Boyles, and Phillip Pesek from L.A. Fuess Partners put on the Build-A-Beam Challenge for the CE Club to test the students’ creativity and knowledge after three weeks of learning the basic concepts of structures and statics in Mr. Carver’s classroom. Each class was split into teams that were given six 2”x20” strips of foam core board to build a beam. Half of the teams were given nails to build their beams while the other teams were given hot glue guns in order to provide a contrast between the two connection options. Finally, the teams were informed that the ultimate goal of the Build-A-Beam Challenge was not to achieve the highest capacity but to also achieve the highest efficiency by dividing the ultimate capacity of each team’s beam by the beam weight. This challenged the students to consider carefully the amount of materials used in their beam design. The beams were loaded to failure by hanging a paint bucket at mid-span and adding one and two pound increments of sand into the bucket. In the end, it wasn’t always the “strongest” beam that was the most efficient! Steven, Jared, and Phil helped students during the design and construction phases of the project, offering advice on beam stiffening and section design. After testing, each beam was examined upon failure and the mentors explained the various failure modes. Additional pictures and a video from the Build-A-Beam challenge can be found here and here.


Geotechnical Engineering with Fugro

Ardita Dushi of Fugro Engineering came to Woodrow Wilson High School to share her career as a geotechnical engineer. Ardita went into great detail as to how she came from studying civil engineering as an undergrad in Turkey to attending Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where she earned a master’s degree specializing in geotechnical engineering. She then walked the students through her career path, touching on subjects such as what brought her to Dallas and what her daily workflow looks like as an engineer. Students were reminded of how important it is for civil engineers of all disciplines to have a trustworthy and competent geotechnical engineer on their side. Students were shown this retaining wall failure in Baltimore, Maryland to drive the point home. Ardita also walked the students through the various tests and lab procedures that geotechnical engineers must perform in order to develop a geotechnical report for a project. Mr. Carver especially appreciated how much detail Ardita went into when describing the report writing that engineers must do. This is something that he is trying to reinforce with his students when it comes to their projects in the civil engineering class. Students were also given the opportunity to ask Ardita a number of candid questions about her career and the field of geotechnical engineering. Finally, Ardita invited the students and Mr. Carver out for a field trip to the Fugro lab in May.

Transportation and Highway Engineers from AECOM

Janet Yeow, Ismarie Torres, and Lina Sabeva from AECOM spoke to the CE Club about transportation engineering and challenged the students with a brief team design activity. Janet began the sessions by defining vertical and horizontal alignment in roadway design and asking students to provide examples of vertical and horizontal curves they see on a daily basis on the roads and highways around their school and homes. The students learned about superelevations that transportation engineers use on roadways and railways to make curves safe for travelers based on the size and speed limit of the roads or railroads. Using the example of a rollercoaster or a racetrack with banked curves helped students fully grasp this concept. The students were challenged to break out their pencils and calculators to work out a superelevation problem for train curves of differing radii. Ismarie then explained how transportation engineers calculate stopping sight distance on roadways using geometry and algebra. Once again, the students were asked to work out a problem, this time involving the stopping sight distance on a vertical curve on a road with a specific speed limit. Lina then explained why even flat, straight roads will be sloped to help with stormwater drainage. Lina also explained how engineers must balance design needs with cost restraints to create the most efficient design possible while still maintaining the safety of the people using the road or railway.

Finally, the students got the chance to design a balloon-propelled shuttle to transport pennies along a suspension line. The students came up with a variety of designs for the shuttle including baskets, sleeves, and envelopes connected to the balloon vehicle. Students had to deal with balancing the available thrust from the balloon with the weight of the pennies. Some teams attempted to transport too many pennies in their shuttle, resulting in little to no movement along the suspension line. Other teams had trouble keeping their shuttle attached to the balloon leading to the catastrophic loss of penny lives from the shuttle. Additional pictures from the AECOM presentations can be found here. 

Traffic Engineering with Brown & Gay Engineers

Sean Merrell, the 2013 ASCE Dallas Branch Past President, gave a presentation on traffic engineering to Mr. Carver’s four civil engineering classes. Sean talked about his path to becoming a traffic engineer from serving as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, earning a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Texas A&M University, and working for BGE as well as the City of Frisco. Sean talked to the students about the importance of attending an ABET accredited university, gaining meaningful work experience, studying for and passing the professional engineering licensure exam, and completing continuing education and obtaining additional certifications. Sean was the perfect example of these final two steps within the traffic engineering industry since he holds PTOE and RAS certifications in addition to being a registered professional engineer.

Sean then asked the students to consider traffic signs and intersections that are all around us. Why is a stop sign a red octagon? Why is a railroad sign round? What’s the advantage of a roundabout? He explained that every single element of traffic engineering has a specific purpose and meaning. As practical examples, Sean showed the students traffic signal studies he had completed as well as plan drawings of roadway illumination projects and intersection design projects he has worked on throughout his career. He also showed the students a couple of the computer programs that traffic engineers use to work out signal timing and predict traffic patterns. The students especially enjoyed getting the chance to check out some of the equipment that is inside the traffic signal cabinets at major intersections.

Field Trip with Fugro, ASCE Dallas, DWU, and MWH Global

Ten of the top juniors from the Civil Engineering and Architecture Design classes at Woodrow Wilson High School had the opportunity to go on an exciting and action-packed field trip on Monday, May 11th. The day started off with the students getting a tour from Ardita Dushi, P.E., a speaker at WWHS earlier in the year, of the Fugro Geotechnical and Materials Lab. Students were shown the coring machines used by the engineers and technicians at Fugro as well some of the tests done on a daily basis in the lab. Some of the students were brave enough to volunteer to execute some of the tests themselves. Observation of the testing cylinders being loaded to failure in compression was the highlight according to many of the students.

Mr. Carver and his students then made their way over to the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Addison where they were special guests for the ASCE Dallas Branch Meeting. A special thanks to the ASCE Dallas Board of Directors and the ASCE Region 6 Governors for sponsoring the students’ meals at this luncheon. Several ASCE Dallas Younger Members hosted the students at two of the tables at the front of hotel ballroom.

After a brief lesson on how to use the multitude of glasses, plates, and silverware on the banquet tables, everyone sat down for a great 3-course meal and a presentation from Mark Simon, P.E. of Dallas Water Utilities. The students were also formally recognized during the meeting by the ASCE Dallas Education Co-Chair, Jonathan Brower, so that the ASCE Dallas members could put faces to the program they have been hearing so much about over the past three years.

After lunch, the students visited Dallas Water Utilities’ Bachman Water Treatment Plant and got an overview of the ongoing upgrades to the treatment plant. Dallas Water Utilities Project Manager Cassia Sanchez led the tour along with the plant operator. Students were shown the plant’s master control room, the ozone generation and destruct units, and the liquid oxygen storage. They also got to walk through the flocculation and sedimentation basins and witness a filter backwash in the Filter Building. Finally, the students were shown the clearwell construction that is currently in progress. This entire tour allowed the students to learn about and follow the water treatment process and see the water quality improve as they travelled through the plant. A special thank you to Andre Garces-Torres, the ASCE Dallas Hospitality Co-Chair, for arranging this tour for the students.

Additional photos from the entire field trip can be found here. Thank you once again to everyone that helped make this all-day field trip such a great success!

L.A. Fuess Partners and LEGO Construction Administration

Jonathan Brower of L.A. Fuess Partners, who also serves as one of the ASCE Dallas Education Co-Chairs, finally had the opportunity to present to the students at Woodrow Wilson High School after simply organizing and overseeing the club meetings for the school year. Jonathan discussed how his job as a structural engineer not only involves design using math and physics but also large amounts of time on coordination and administrative duties with architects and contractors. All of this communication has to be done in a formal and professional manner while dealing with others that are just as busy with other concerns, priorities, and projects.

To help illustrate this challenge, the students were given different packets of pictures of LEGO buildings made out of a variety of LEGO blocks of different colors and sizes. The LEGO blocks to each building were given to one of the other groups in the room. Each team of students had to then figure out the most efficient way to communicate how to build their LEGO building using only pencil and paper. Each team was responsible for producing a set of design drawings for a building as well as constructing a LEGO building from the design drawings of another team. The teams could ask questions back and forth with the other design or construction teams they were working with, but everything had to be communicated “officially” on paper, meaning no talking between teams was allowed.


Students gained a special appreciation for the coordination and multitasking that being an engineer requires as they began to receive construction documents for building a LEGO structure at the same time that they were receiving questions and RFIs from the team that had their construction documents. Additional pictures from the LEGO construction activity can be found here.

Civil Engineering Club Student Survey Results
To better understand the student population, ASCE Dallas conducted an end-of-year survey about the Civil Engineering Club presentations with the four civil engineering classes at Woodrow Wilson High School. The hope is to take this feedback and continue to improve upon this quickly-growing program!

Thanks in large part to the four-year Engineering Academy at WWHS, the majority of the students were already aware of the civil engineering profession with structural and environmental engineering being the most widely recognized.

It also appears that the majority of the students are interested in pursuing engineering of some form or another in college:

The CE Club meetings increased the students’ interest in civil engineering for the most part:

Students were also asked to comment on how the club meetings positively impacted their outlook on civil engineering:

  • My interest increased because the guest speakers seemed to really love what they did and their jobs seemed really interesting and fun.
  • The opinions given from the speakers and also their experience in life really gave me a better view of engineering. 
  • Before the club meetings I had some previous knowledge towards civil engineering, but not as much to where I could hold a conversation with engineers and know what they were talking about. I now have a more elaborate view on certain topics of civil engineering. 
  • My interest increased because they made their jobs seem interesting by them showing what their job consisted of. It also sparked my interest because they knew everything they were explaining which helped me personally by making it simple to understand for someone not in that profession.
  • At the beginning, I didn't know that there were a lot of civil engineering branches. Now I know that there are a lot of possibilities within civil engineering. 
  • My interest in CE increased because I found out that these careers actually help many people. Not only does it have a major effect on people, but it helps our life be incredibly easier. For example, if we didn't have transportation engineers, our life out in the roads would be extremely terrifying. 
  • My interest in CE increased because I know that being an engineer has many opportunities to help the people and the community. This is something that I love doing. This why my CE desire became stronger.
  • Well, I didn't realize how deeply specific each specialized engineer is with their job. Each engineer covers so much more than I ever thought possible.
  • I never knew how much consideration went into streets.
  • My interest in CE has increased because off all types of projects they get to do as well travel to other places.


Overall, the students preferred hands-on activities that the presenters arranged. The overwhelming favorite was the Build-A-Beam activity with L.A. Fuess.

We also looked at ways that the CE Club program could be further improved. For the most part, students expressed that they would like to do more hands-on activities or at least have some kind of participation role (i.e. working out problems on the board or on paper) in the presentations taking place. Information was also gathered on what specific topics the students would like to learn more about when guest speakers come in:

When asked to rate the CE Club meetings overall, the students gave the program an average rating of 8.15 out of 10: