CU Denver takes the spotlight at ASCE Annual Convention

By: Philip Taylor, civil engineering student

Denver’s booming construction scene took center stage at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Annual Convention last weekend at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Denver. In addition, CU Denver students hosted ASCE leaders, networked with industry peers and attended dozens of educational sessions at the three-day event.

ASCE’s decision to hold its 2018 convention on CU Denver’s doorstep offered students unique access to the industry’s top leaders and innovators such as Hyperloop Transportation Technologies CEO Dirk Ahlborn. Student attendees also had the opportunity to take behind-the-scenes tours of some of Denver’s biggest construction projects, including the Platte to Park Hill stormwater systems project and CDOT’s Central-70 project to overhaul and widen Interstate 70 through north Denver.

CU Denver made its own mark on the convention by hosting ASCE’s newest president, Robin Kemper, P.E., on Wednesday, Oct. 10. As ASCE president, Kemper leads the nation’s oldest engineering society. ASCE represents roughly 150,000 civil engineers in 177 countries; publishes important civil engineering literature such as the ASCE 7 standard for design loads, among many others; and is a leading organizer of educational events like this weekend’s convention as well as monthly technical dinners in Denver.

Kemper last Wednesday had breakfast with CU Denver’s ASCE Student Chapter officers and faculty advisor, Dr. David Mays, as well as Dr. Caroline Clevenger. Kemper discussed the important role ASCE student chapters play in connecting students to working engineers. She also discussed her job as a senior risk engineering consultant at Zurich Services Corp., where she advises owners, designers and contractors on professional liability, builder’s risk, risk management and best management practices. While designers and contractors play different roles in civil projects, the success of one depends on the success of the other, Kemper said. Effective communication and best practices among designers and contractors are key to limiting risks at the construction site.

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ASCE President Robin Kemper (first row, second from left) joined CU Denver students and faculty for breakfast on Wednesday, Oct. 10.

Kemper later toured the CU Denver campus and gave an hour-long presentation to Dr. Heidi Brothers’ Construction Engineering Systems course. She urged students to take full advantage of the convention’s educational sessions, tours and networking opportunities.

“Meet as many different people as you can,” Kemper said. “And talk to us gray-hairs.”

Kemper encouraged students to stick with ASCE after they graduate and consider becoming politically active. ASCE faces challenges nationwide in retaining its young members. As an incentive to graduates, ASCE offers free memberships to civil engineers during their first year in the workforce and graduated membership fees in the years that follow, Kemper said. She highlighted ASCE’s professional connections, its social and community service events, and its political lobbying on infrastructure matters. ASCE members “speak as one voice,” to policy makers in Washington, D.C., and at statehouses across the nation, Kemper said. Bills such as the Water Resources Development Act, which last week passed the Senate and authorizes billions of dollars in investments in civil works projects, help drive construction of infrastructure that improves the safety and welfare of the public.

“We’ve got your back,” Kemper said of ASCE’s advocacy work. “Public policy helps drive the future of our infrastructure and how we help the public.”

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Kemper speaks to the Construction Engineering Systems course on Wednesday, Oct. 10.

ASCE also supports construction engineering professionals, Kemper said. For example, ASCE’s Construction Institute offers construction professionals the opportunity to share best practices with their peers and take part in technical activities and conferences as well as the development of standards. The Construction Institute – whose goal is to improve communication within the engineering and construction industry, improve construction practices and burnish the image of the construction industry — is one of nine ASCE institutes that provide resources to members in specialty areas.

“You’re going to need to continue your education throughout your lives,” Kemper told students. In addition to passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, Kemper recommended student consider pursuing Envision credentials. Envision, which is a certification and training program supported by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure, promotes sustainable approaches to planning, designing, constructing and operating infrastructure projects.

Sustainability was a key driver of the Platte to Park Hill Stormwater Systems Project, which seeks to protect Denver residents from extreme flooding while improving water quality in the South Plate River watershed. The project was one of the construction site tours advertised at the ASCE convention. Platte to Park Hill is a $298 million project for the City and County of Denver that will recontour the City Park Golf Course to intercept storm water; create additional stormwater detention at Park Hill; build a mile-long open drainage channel through north Denver for flood relief and recreation; and install massive below-ground conduits to safely convey stormwater to the South Platte River in Globeville. The City Park Gold Course phase of the project was procured as a design-build contract and awarded to Saunders Construction. Work began in late 2017, and the course is on schedule to reopen in summer 2019. The broader Platte to Park Hill project faces many unique construction challenges associated with building in an urban environment, including land acquisition, environmental risks, traffic management and community outreach.

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A major storm sewer at the Platte to Park Hill project. Photo courtesy of Molly Trujillo.

The ASCE convention underscored the importance of continuing education in the civil engineering profession as well as the need for good communication among civil engineering designers, project managers and contractors. It reinforced the need for innovation to ensure civil engineers continue to protect the safety, health and welfare of the public.

ASCE STUDENT OFFICERS WIN AWARDS FROM COLORADO SECTION

0419181944aThree civil engineering undergraduates have been selected for awards from the Colorado Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). From left to right, they are Phil Taylor, Wesley Engel, and Whitney Benson, each of whom has served as an officer in CU Denver’s ASCE Student Chapter. In addition, Taylor was selected to receive this year’s Jaqueline Arcaris Civil Engineering Scholarship, which recognizes civil engineering students with potential to become outstanding civil engineering professionals. Please join us in congratulating these award-winning ASCE student officers!

ASCE TWO FOR TWO IN SOUTH DAKOTA

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(CU Denver’s pre-design team left-to-right: Dan Barlow, Nathan Werner, Khalil Elareir, Badr Husini, Philip Taylor, and Liz Taylor; not pictured: Whitney Benson)

CU Denver’s delegation was small at this weekend’s American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Rocky Mountain Student Conference in Rapid City, South Dakota, but they punched well above their weight.

CU Denver’s Pre-Design Team won first place, beating out seven other schools. Their water supply system design supplied variable amounts of water to specified locations using nothing more than a single valve and clever plumbing, earning a first-place finish with 84 out of a possible 100 points.

In addition, ASCE student chapter Vice President Nathan Werner was part of the first place team in the Mystery Design competition. In this year’s Mystery Design, each student was randomly paired with students from three other schools. Nathan’s team, which included himself and one student each from Colorado School of Mines, New Mexico State University and Brigham Young University, put together the winning bid for a project to clean biofilm from the Catskill Aqueduct.  

In short, our ASCE student chapter competed in two events at this year’s conference and won both of them! We are hopeful CU Denver can participate in additional events at next year’s conference at CU Boulder.

ASCE President Kristina Swallow presents distinguished lecture

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From L to R: Philip Taylor, Badr Husini, Caroline Clevenger, Kristina Swallow, Moatassem Abdallah, Aaron Leopold

On Wednesday, February 28, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) President Kristina Swallow visited CU Denver and presented a lecture, “Engineering the Future” to more than 100 engineering students, faculty, and industry partners. The message: how to best prepare future civil engineers to meet the challenges in our aging infrastructure, innovation of new technologies and capabilities that will enable us to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Ms. Swallow also encouraged the attendees to have the necessary “courageous conversations” to promote sustainability and resiliency in our infrastructure and civil engineering. The visit was coordinated by the CU Denver ASCE student chapter and faculty in the Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) program.

While here, Ms. Swallow also spoke with the CEM advisory board, toured the campus and attended a dinner with campus and college leadership hosted by Chancellor Dorothy Horrell and Paul Boulos, president-elect of the Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port & Navigation Engineers.

Read the ASCE story.

Mays recognized as Outstanding ASCE Faculty Advisor

David-Mays- (10-2014)-webDavid Mays, associate professor of civil engineering, has been recognized as the outstanding Faculty Advisor for a Student Chapter in Region 7 of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Region 7 comprises the states of Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming, and the cities of Kansas City and St. Louis in Missouri. Mays won this recognition after being nominated by several CU Denver students following the success of the 2016 Rocky Mountain Student Meeting which was co-hosted with Metropolitan State University of Denver in March-April 2016, and will accept his award at the September 2016 monthly meeting of the Colorado Section ASCE.

Congratulations!

CE graduates honored by ASCE

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Left to right: Norma Jean Mattei-ASCE President Elect; Richard Wiltshire-ASCE Colorado Section President; Charlie Pajares-CU Denver Student Awardee; Jesse Hanson-CU Denver Student Awardee; Todd Santee-CU Denver Student Awardee; Sean Franklin-ASCE Colorado Section Vice President (photograph by Peter Marxhausen)

At their annual student awards dinner on April 21, the Colorado Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) honored three graduates from CU Denver’s undergraduate civil engineering program: Charlie Pajares, Jesse Hanson, and Todd Santee. Faculty advisor David Mays nominated the awardees based on outstanding academic performance and dedicated service to our Student Chapter of ASCE, including the recent Rocky Mountain Student Conference.

Each awardee receives a cash award and a complimentary dinner invitation to the student awards dinner. In addition, Todd Santee was honored with the first prize in the Colorado Section ASCE Scholarship Competition, winning out over applicants from Boulder, CSU, and Mines.

Congratulations to all the awardees!