CE Club July 2017 Update

Civil Engineering Club at Woodrow Wilson High School (2016-2017)

ASCE Dallas has grown the Civil Engineering Club at Woodrow Wilson High School in east Dallas from a handful of students after school to a full, in-class program that reaches 50-60 seniors and juniors. The Engineering Academy at Woodrow Wilson is sponsored by Project Lead the Way and led by Mr. Brandon Carver. Mr. Carver has been a key component to the success of the program by allowing ASCE Dallas CE Club Champion Jonathan Brower to coordinate speakers with his class curriculum. Guest speakers from all corners of the civil engineering industry were brought in to serve as substitute teaches for all three of the Civil Engineering and Architecture Design classes on a bi-weekly basis. Recaps from previous years can be found online here, here, and here.

Below are summaries of all the guest speaker presentations from the 2016-2017 school year:

Civil Engineering Students from the SMU

Two civil engineering students from the Lyle School of Engineering at SMU, Audrey Moentmann and Juan Jokisch, opened up the 2016-2017 CE Club at Woodrow Wilson High School. Audrey and Juan started off by giving some background information on themselves including what initially motivated them to start studying engineering in college. They also talked about their internships and classes throughout their time at SMU. The high school students were also given the opportunity to ask candid questions to Audrey and Juan about the college admissions process, studying, and college life in general.

Land Development with ForeSite Group

Maria Eichhold, Josh McNeil, Julia Dang, Ricky Carreno, and Travis Pruett from ForeSite Group for the third straight year put on a wonderful presentation for the CE Club.  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 on a development team:

  • 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 that was bordered by a neighborhood, a major highway, and commercial land.  They were given a budget, 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 to 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.  Each group then 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.  Additional photos of their visit to the WWHS CE Club can be found online here and here.

Field Trip to Corgan and Denton Landfill

 A group of the top students from Mr. Carver’s Civil Enginering/Architecture Design class were given the opportunity to go on an all-day field trip in early October. The day began at the offices of Corgan Architects where Janah St. Luce, a frequent speaker and mentor for the CE Club, gave the students a tour of the workspaces of many architects and the Corgan Media Lab. Students were able to ask questions to various architects about their daily work and interesting projects they were working on. Pictures from the Corgan offices are available online here.

Next, the students traveled up to Denton where they were given a tour of the city landfill by current ASCE Dallas President, Frank Pugsley of Parkhill, Smith, & Cooper. Frank walked the students through the waste management process and how civil engineers play a major role in the design, maintenance, and operation of landfills. Photos from the tour of City of Denton landfill are available here.

Core Volunteer from Habitat for Humanity

Ashlyn Kelbly, a Core Volunteer for Dallas Habitat for Humanity, presented to the students at Woodrow Wilson on the inner-workings of the organization. Ashlyn explained how interested families can apply to become Habitat for Humanity homeowners and how Habitat is not simply “giving away” houses. The organization is primarily targeting families earning somewhere between 25%-60% of the area median income and requires the families to go through home ownership and mortgage classes in addition to putting “sweat equity” (or volunteered build hours) into their home.

The students were then shown some of the floor plans that Dallas Habitat for Humanity has available for the homes. There is also a variety of façade options for the houses, which is primarily the result of requests from the Dallas City Council to add some diversity to the Habitat for Humanity houses popping up in various neighborhoods.

Ashlyn then asked the students to list off what they thought some of steps to building a home might be. Students mentioned important things such as lot size, soil conditions, surrounding area, trees, and wildlife. Ashlyn also explained how Habitat for Humanity has to do their due diligence to check the zoning requirements, flood plain status, access to public water utilities, and access to fire hydrants for the prospective house locations. Students were then given a large sheet of paper with a typical blank lot for them to develop their own house plan. Each team was given a different set of criteria ranging from ease of construction, maximizing floor space, and architectural features. Each group then presented their house plan design to the class and provided justification for their design.

Ashlyn also showed pictures of all these steps and certainly built plenty of excitement for those going out to the build day the following Saturday. Pictures from Ashlyn’s in-class visit are available here.

 Build Day with Habitat for Humanity

Mr. Carver and fifteen students from the CE Club woke up bright and early on a Saturday in mid-October to work all day on a Habitat for Humanity house in Joppa, TX along with Ashlyn Kelbly and Jonathan Brower (ASCE Dallas YMs). The day started off with a brief safety meeting in the driveway, and the students were quickly put to work nailing sheathing onto the stud walls, cutting wood, and building the porch beams.

The day was filled with learning experiences about home construction (and a few hammered thumbs). Several students asked about coming back again to volunteer and ASCE Dallas hopes to keep the CE Club involved with Habitat for Humanity. A special thanks to Ashlyn for arranging a weekend for the students to volunteer their time! Pictures are available online here and here.

Forensic Engineering with Wiss, Janey, Elstner Associates

Doug Smith of Wiss, Janey, Elstner Associates spoke to the CE Club about his career as a forensic engineer, and how he first became interested in engineering as a high school student that accelled at math and science. He briefly explained the history of WJE as a company, which got off to a big start when the interstate highway system kicked off in the 1950s. Doug then got into defining what exactly a forensic engineer does. Students learned that forensic engineers have to deal with not only things that collapse or break, but also structures and facilities that have serviceability issues stemming from excess deflections, unsettling vibrations, and various other problems.

Water Utilities Engineering with Nathan D. Maier Consulting Engineers

Rosaura Estrada, an EIT at Nathan D. Maier, introduced the Woodrow Wilson CE Club students to water distribution systems and the other types of projects that the water utilities team at Nathan D. Maier works on. She discussed with students the purpose and requirements of good water distribution systems, including many of the challenges that consulting engineers have to develop unique and economical solutions to. The layouts and methods of water distribution were covered in detail as well as how engineers design the storage sytems that begin the entire process!

Rosaura also prepared a great group activity for the students where they had the opportunity to design their own distribution pipe network using foam piping and marbles. Each group was given a unique layout that included an elevated storage tank location (a bag of marbles) and two zones (cups) that they had to distibute water (marbles) to. This was a great way to practically illustrate a water distribution system to the students while encouraging them to work as a team. Additional photos can be found online here.

Structural Field Engineers from HILTI

Alexis Clark and Abraham Chapa, structural field engineers for HILTI in the DFW area, gave the CE Club students a great presentation on a career in field engineering. They both started off explaining how they got started in engineering, including their time at the University of Texas and as part of the UT ASCE Student Chapter. Alexis then gave a brief overview of the history of HILTI starting from their origins in Liechtenstein. Abraham then discussed how there is unlimited potential and unlimited career path options working as an engineer, especially at a company with the amount of services and global reach like HILTI. They both encouraged the students by explaining that their work as field engineers is often considered one of the more “outgoing” and “socially engaging” branches of engineering. Their people and communication skills are valued just as highly as their technical prowess.

Students were then shown several of the products that HILTI manufactures, includes concrete anchors, firestops, deck diaphragn screws, installation tools, and many other power tools. Finally, the students were given a team challenge involving the selection and “sales pitch” for various post-installed anchor solutions. Each team was assigned an anchor type: adhesive, screw, or wedge anchor. They were then tasked with “convincing the client” as to why their anchor type was the best solution for the job based on anchor cost, geometric constraints, labor/installation cost, quantity of anchors, and the anchor mechanisms. At the end, all the teams discussed which anchor type would be the best. Additional photos can be found online here.



Transportation Engineers from AECOM

Janet Yeow of AECOM and Zai Martinez, a freshman college intern at AECOM, spoke to the CE Club students about transportation engineering. Specifically, they talked about the transit and civil engineering components of the Oklahoma City Streetcar Project. They discussed the construction documents, including the track layout, demolition plan, roadway adjustments, grading, and cost estimates. After getting a decent amount of background on the project, the students were led through an AutoCAD activity where they had to use various line types and shapes to layout sidewalks and asphalt/concrete roadways that are part of the proposed project. They also used a spreadsheet to develop an estimated cost for each project option.

Zai also took time at the end of each class period to share her experiences at AECOM, including working for the engineering firm as a high school intern and then transitioning to being a college intern. She shared invaluable advice about what it’s like to work at a professional engineering firm. Her advice included being accountable, setting and meeting attainable deadlines, and not being afraid to ask questions. The students certainly identified with and appreciated the advice that Zai gave them! Additional photos from their visit can be found here.

Land Development with Pape-Dawson

Fernando Ceballos of Pape-Dawson spoke to the the Civil Engineering Club about land development and specifically, how civil engineers plan for water and wastewater control. The presentation started off with a broad overview of land development and city planning. Students were asked to consider their previous land development activity with ForeSITE Group and how they laid out four city blocks of development. Fernando pointed out to the students that in addition to considering the location and arrangement of various buildings on a development they also need to consider things like flood plains, rock, aquifers, gas lines, other existing utilities, and the topography of the site. Land development involves the coordination of several different team members including environmentalists, city officials, city engineers, surveyors, geotechnical engineers, mechanical engineers, structural engineers, plumbers, electricians, and architects.

For the team activity, Fernando split the classroom into four groups that were each given a scaled down plan of a residential development. The students had to lay out water and sanitary sewer systems on plan using scales. The students were given restrictions such as the longest distance permitted between man holes, space constraints, and a requirement for straight lines between man holes. Each team had a variety of pipe sizes to choose from based on the number of houses they planned on each system servicing. At the end of the class, the students added up an estimated cost of their system based on prices given to them by Fernando. The goal of the exercise was to find the most cost-effective solution. Additional photos from Fernando’s visit can be found online here.


Structural Engineering with L.A. Fuess Partners

Phillip Pesek, Derek Marucci, and Lauren Wood of L.A. Fuess Partners led a two-part series of presentations on structural engineering with the Woodrow Wilson CE Club. Mr. Carver was just beginning to get into the basics of statics when Derek and Phil gave the first presentation. They explained the different types of structural engineering from buildings and bridges and even explained some of the elements of structural design that they work on every day. Phil then ran the students through the calculations for a simply supported beam with a point load at midspan. We hope that the students learned something from this with their first statics test looming in a couple of weeks.

Phil and Lauren then came back to the school two weeks later to lead the famous Build-A-Beam activity. The students were given twenty minutes to build the most efficient beam possible using six strips of foam-core board, hot glue guns, and nails. The team with the highest load-to-weight ratio was deemed the winner in each class.

This is the fourth year that L.A. Fuess Partners has participated in the CE Club program and we are so grateful for their continued support of the club! Additional photos from the Build-A-Beam activity can be found online here and here. A video of last year’s activity can also be found here.




Geotechnical Engineering with Kleinfelder

Gwen Sollenberger of Kleinfelder spoke to the CE Club students about her career as a geotechnical engineer. See started with some background on her path through college in Florida which included involvement in the ASCE student chapter, working as a research assistant at Florida Institute of Technology, and a co-op at a local engineering firm. She shared with the high school students that she didn't know she wanted to be a geotechnical engineer until later in her college career when she noticed that she was excelling more and more in her geotechnical classes. From there she showed great perseverance through the economic downturn when it was very difficult to find a job by working any way she could, even if it meant doing something unrelated to engineering.

Next, Gwen shared what she does on a daily basis including site visits, lab tests, developing construction documents, and writing reports for other engineers and clients to use. She also showed the students some pictures of the equipment used for field studies including boring rigs. 

Water Resources with Kimley-Horn

Troy Hotchkiss of Kimley-Horn spoke to students about dams, water distribution, and the politics involved in sharing water between municipalities. He has been dealing with a situation like this recently and took it as an opportunity to show the students some of the challenges and roadblocks that civil engineers can face, especially when dealing with something as complicated, yet essential, as drinking water. 

To help illustrate this concept the classroom was split into multiple groups to represent different municipalities. One of the groups was given a large container of water to represent a lake reservoir while all the other groups were only given an empty cup to represent a water treatment plant for their municipality. Troy then asked the different groups to share their thoughts on what was the best way for the city with the lake reservoir to share and distribute the drinking water they had with the other cities. They were asked to consider the tough questions like:

  •          How much water should each city get?
  •          How much should they pay for the water?
  •          How will the water get to all the other cities?
  •          Who will pay for the systems and pipelines to distribute the water?
  •          Who's responsible for making sure the reservoir water stays clean?

To complicate matters, Troy explained that the recent project he's been working on has a bottom intake in the lake, which is where all the dirt and organic material settles in the lake. The students were asked to consider the engineering, financial, and political challenges and consequences of updating such a system. These challenges included things such as TCEQ requirements, organic materials requiring special disinfectants, and financing options that don't always make governments and their tax payers very happy, even when it's something as important as their drinking water. 

All in all, Troy's presentation was a very practical demonstration of many of the important factors civil engineers must consider when working on large municipal projects besides just the nitty-gritty design and calculations. The students really enjoyed having the opportunity to consider and openly debate many of these issues. Additional photos can be found online here.

Geotechnical Engineering with Terracon

Tim Abrams of Terracon returned to the CE Club this year to talk about geotechnical engineering and lead a great group activity. He started off by explaining the main elements of geotechnical engineering including soil and rock analysis, foundation system design, and earth retention design. Various foundation systems were also explained, including the drilled shaft pier foundation system underneath Woodrow Wilson High School. Tim also explained that, unfortunately, as a geotechnical engineer, 90% of your work will never be seen. However, it is still an extremely important field of design and truly tests your ability to analyze and predict soil environments since most investigations only involve a handful of boring samples over a large area.

Finally, the students were shown a design problem that required a contractor to cut away a hillside for a building construction project. They then discussed the pros and cons of the various retaining wall solutions which included a tied back drilled shaft wall, a soil nail wall, a cast in place retaining wall, and a mechanically stabilized earth wall. Tim then challenged the students to build their own retaining wall out of pieces of paper cut to resemble soil nails. They were asked to consider how friction could contribute to the capacity of the retaining walls, and how soil nails could be optimized to give the safest and most efficient design. The team that built a retaining wall with the shortest amount of paper soil nail length was deemed the winner in each class. Additional photos can be found here and here.

May Field Trip

As a reward for some of the top performing students in the Civil Engineering and Architecture Design class, the ASCE Dallas Branch organized an all-day field trip for Mr. Carver and 10 students. This was a great opportunity for these students to soak in a full day within the engineering professional realm. 

Thanks to the efforts of Fernando Ceballos, the day started off at the offices of Pape-Dawson Engineers where the students got a tour of the engineers’ work stations. The students were broken up into groups of two or three and got to sit at the desks of Matt Gilbertson, Luigi Basalo, and Dustin Wentz to learn about the daily tasks of a young engineer. Additional photos can be found online here.

Next, the students traveled up to Addison to attend the ASCE Dallas Branch luncheon which also happened to be Younger Member month. The students were seated at two tables at the front of the room where they got to mingle with some ASCE Dallas Younger Members and listen to the main luncheon presentation by Dr. Mo Najafi of UT-Arlington on underground freight transportation. The students were also formally recognized at the luncheon by Jonathan Brower, the ASCE Dallas CE Club Champion. 

Finally, the students headed to the Cypress Waters development in Coppell where James Bryan of Kimley-Horn Associates showed them around the lift station that was under construction, including the flow meter vault and equipment in the electrical room. Additional photos from the site visit can be found online here.



Engineers Without Borders

Julie Jones of Nathan D. Maier Consulting Engineers came to the CE Club at Woodrow Wilson High School to talk about her experience with the international organization Engineers Without Borders. She shared about the positive impact?that engineers can make in the world outside of their?daily places of employment. Engineers Without Borders allows engineers an avenueto donate their time and engineering skills to assist?communities that would otherwise have minimal or no?access to such resources. Julie explained to the students?that the mission of EWB is to serve communities in order that they would have the capacity and sustainability to meet their basic human needs.

Julie then showcased a recent project that the EWB North Texas Professional Chapter has been working on in Bolivia. She started off by describing the village they were working in by showing pictures of the livestock and simple, adobe brick houses. Most of the structures in the villages were constructed with rock foundations and pine straw roofs. The main need in this community was water utilities. The village had a small pump house from the 1980s but it had fallen into disrepair long ago.

Engineers Without Borders conducted land surveys, collected soil samples, gathered GPS coordinates for all the buildings and major landmarks, and spent a lot of time listening to the concerns and input of the community. Many community members felt that their quality of life would improve drastically if they could just have some clean water to wash their fruits and vegetables and to wash their clothes and children more often. Finally, Julie answered lots of questions from the students about her job as a private consulting engineer as well as her philanthropic involvement in organizations like EWB and ASCE. Additional photos can be found online here.

Traffic Engineering with Urban Engineers Group

Omar Venzor and Hasan Raza of Urban Engineers Group talked with the CE Club students about traffic engineering and the path that they each took to becoming an engineer. They outlined what it takes to become a traffic engineer, including the licensing requirements. Students were also shown that they could work for either public organizations such as cities, counties, airports, and TxDOT or private corporations that do consulting work.

Next, Omar and Hasan explained the types of projects that traffic engineers work on. The students were shown the reports that are produced from traffic studies that determine the existing conditions and capacity at a location, as well as future analysis to determine what improvements should be made to achieve a prescribed level of service. They also discussed signal timing, signing and pavement marking design, ITS design, and roadway illumination.

CE Club End of Year Student Survey

Every year we like to take a look back on the CE Club meetings and activities to see where we can make improvements in the program. To start, it’s good to gage where the students stood at the beginning of the year with regards to their understanding of civil engineering:


Next, our survey results showed that that CE Club speakers and activities produced an increased interest in civil engineering:

The ultimate goal of CE Club is to not only increase interest in civil engineering, but also encourage the students to actually pursue a degree and career in civil engineering. We started off broad by asking if the students were at least considering studying engineering in general in college:

Of the ones considering civil engineering specifically, it appears that structural engineering and transportation are the favorites:

Finally, we asked the students to rate the CE Club on a scale from 1 to 10. This year’s CE Club speakers achieved an average rating of 8.1!

Here are some of the best feedback quotes from students in the program:

“I had a general idea of what a civil engineer does and by being exposed to all these different types of engineering it expanded my mindset and gave me more knowledge on what I want to do in the future.”

“Before those speakers, I was not sure what part of civil engineering I wanted to learn. After those speakers, I learned that I want to learn more about Transportation Engineering.”

“I was provided with much information, things I wasn't aware of and made me realize that engineering is in our daily lives.”

“My favorite part of the meeting was the interactions that occurred. It was really interesting where these actual people came from and how they got to where they are today. I enjoyed talking to these people and asking questions because these people actually have stuff to say and teach us and this opportunity is something that no other class does.”

“My favorite part was being able to listen to guest speakers and get an idea for potential career choices.”