Letters

 “ENHANCING THE IMAGE” – LETTERS FROM PRIVATE FIRMS

 

Letter from Private Firm

    Dear Ms. Young,

    Thank you for your work in developing this program. I read your attached letter describing the two phase program. We are certainly interested in doing what we can to help in any existing program or area. We have a staff of 18 structural engineers ranging in age and experience from recent graduates to post-retirement engineers

    We do participate in programs that you do not specifically list in you Education Community section of Public Outreach. We participate in local high school career fairs. These are usually 2 to 4 hours exhibits from various professions and trades. We try to emphasize structural engineering specifically, not just engineering in general. We use photos of construction, computer projections of drawings and projects, drawings, samples of structural items, etc. to draw attention. We also have handouts including photos and descriptions of what structural engineers do. We also try to generate discussion about what is required in college, etc.

    Edwin A. McDougle
    Ross Bryan Associates, Inc.
    1025 16th Avenue South
    Suite 400
    Nashville,TN37212
    voice 615-329-1300
    cell   615-406-8028
    fax    615-327-4446
    mcdougle@rossbryan.com

 

Letter from Private Firm

    Our firm, Klotz Associates, Inc inHouston, Texas,for the past several years,has participated ina“Walk a Mile in My Shoes” program at a local school.  The program is aimed at having a teacher and community leader switch places for a few hours so that the teacher can see what thecommunity leader does and the community leader can teach or talk to a group of students toexplain to them what he/she does.  Klotz Associates has put together alesson thatsparks the interest in math and structural engineering by demonstrating how shapes/materials/thicknesses can change the strength of a simple bridge.  The simple bridge we use is a dollar bill and the load we use are quarters.

    Bill Abbott
    Klotz Associates
    Houston, TX 

  

Letter from Private Firm

    Dear Ms. Young,

    RE: Enhancing the Image of Structural Engineers; letter dated July 22 2003

    I am writing on behalf of the ASCE New Orleans Branch Structures Committee.  We are a group of structural engineers active w/ ASCE and attempting to become more active with SEI.  The attached letter to SEI requesting further involvement summarizes our goals and activities.

    Recently, we also became concerned with the public image of Structural Engineers.  As stated in the SEI letter we are already doing much of the outreach functions listed in your letter.  We are considering making presentations at selected areaHigh Schools and pursuing advertisement/promotion on local radio and TV stations.  In this regard, we're looking for any advice that you could offer on the subject (i.e. was there an approach to Stations that resulted in free or less expensive air time)

    Regards,
    Mark Gonski, P.E.
    504-862-2669
    email: mark.h.gonski@mvn02.usace.army.mil

  

Letter from Private Firm

     Stephanie,

    Our firm Steven Schaefer Associates uses structural engineering co-op students from the University of Cincinnati for drafting/CAD work.  They alternate 3 months sessions of work and school.  We currently have 2 students each quarter working.  They see how our office works and what a structural engineer does, so they can decide if that is what they really want to do.

    In the past we worked with an urban school during their mentoring day.  We would have a younger engineer meet with the student, bring them to our office, take them to a construction site and then spent the rest of the day at the school with the student.  The problem with this was most of the students were lower achievers.  They would not have had the math and science background to take engineering.  We also showed them what our drafter/CAD operators did and showed them what some of the building tradesmen did at the site.  If it convinced one of the students to want to try harder to become a mason or electrician, we though the program was successful.  The program was discontinued after the counselor who ran it left the school.

    We designed an addition to a girls high school.  Our engineer on the project was an alumni of the school.  When most of the structure was complete, she took the physics classes on a tour of the building and explained what she did as the structural engineer.  (As I think back, we should offer to do this on every high school that we design.)

    Steve Schaefer
    Steven Schaefer Associates, Inc
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    (800) 542-3302
    (513) 542-3300
    (513) 542-5540
     

Letter from Private Firm

    Stephanie-

    As part of the "Engineer's Week" efforts last year, ACEC put me in contact with a local middle school teacher who teaches a "Careers" course, and wanted an engineer as a guest speaker.  In this class, students learn how to write a resume, how to prepare for an interview, etc.  They also have guest speakers (usually parents of the students) come in to talk about their career.  I was asked to give a presentation on engineering as a career.  It was well received by the students, so the teacher has invited me back each term since then to give the presentation to a new batch of students.  Some of the things I do to "get their attention":
    --- rig a block & tackle from the roof structure and let a small student pick up a big student.
    --- show job-site photos from the construction of a roller coaster at a local theme park (my firm designed the foundation system, and many of the students have ridden the ride - it helps them "connect" engineering to their life)
    --- show a video of the famous TocomaNarrows bridge failure (a lesson in what engineers DON'T want to do!)
    --- show them the balsa bridge I made many years ago in Structures 101, and play "Guess the capacity"

    Most middle & high schools probably have a similar course, and would jump at the chance for a volunteer guest speaker.  With just a few hours of prep time, and an hour or so of presentation time, any engineer can make a lasting impression on dozens of young folks.  Some may become interested in engineering as a career, but hopefully ALL gain an appreciation for engineering in their lives.

    Hope this is the kind of information you are requesting!

    Bill Lowndes
    Lowndes Engineering, Inc.
    4122 Scenic Mountain Drive
    Snellville, Georgia 30039
    (770) 985-1281 - Office
    (770) 985-1848 - Fax
    blowndes@lowndeseng.com

 

This article was in the Oct. 16 Washington TImes.   Edward R. Bajer

     Brain & Brawn


    By Ann Geracimos
    THE WASHINGTON TIMES
       
        Violent storms such as Hurricane Isabel seldom have merciful outcomes — except on the fortunes of structural engineers. These are civil engineering specialists who often are the first people called on to survey damage to the support systems of buildings caught in a storm's wake. Structural engineers work with support systems of every kind, whether made of wood, steel, masonry or other materials. They also help develop the codes and standards used in the construction trade.
        "We call their work 'the strength behind the beauty,' " says Edward Bajer, executive director of the Washington-based Council of American Structural Engineers, a subgroup of the American Council of Engineering Companies.
        Structural engineers often are involved in the construction of houses and are employed directly by owners, architects or contractors.
        "In some cases, an engineer will be hired by someone buying an old house with the intention of restoring it and wanting to know it is structurally sound," Mr. Bajer says.
        They also are a critical part of any large-scale commercial or residential project, although most don't work in the private sector. Their main business is with bridges, dams, parking garages and such ambitious construction projects as the new WashingtonConvention Center and the restoration of the WashingtonMonument.
        Structural engineering is a branch of civil engineering, but a civil engineer has a broader range, working on water-treatment plants and other utility projects, Mr. Bajer explains.
        "And they are much different from a home inspector. Our people are more professional. Home inspectors are guys who may have some sort of expertise, but they cover everything — doorjambs, wiring and heating units, for instance. Structural engineers look at the foundation, at beams, rafters and roofs. They tell you if these are OK and then get the contractor to do repairs if necessary."
        The homeowner seeking a structural engineer should make sure the engineer is properly licensed. Credentialing varies by state. In addition, most engineers can recommend contractors to homeowners.
        Structural engineer Dan Vannoy is a professor of civil engineering at the University of Maryland. The Web site for his Annapolis-based Trident Engineering Associates boasts that the firm offers "assistance on-site, anywhere, anytime." The firm will perform engineering investigations (including on aircraft and automotive accidents), reliability and failure assessments (on power-plant systems, for instance), general engineering and even legal assistance. His subspecialty is what he calls "forensic engineering" — looking at things that failed and determining why.
        His other firm, Vannoy and Associates, works primarily with insurance companies, such as Allstate, which hired him last year to check structures after a tornado hit La Plata, Md.
        "This last storm was quite devastating, on top of all the rain before then," he says.
        He was asked to check walls and foundations either immersed in water or struck by falling trees. A Chevy Chase residence he describes as a 1900s Victorian was struck by a tree that took out a quarter of the home. He waited to do his assessment until the tree had been removed and the house settled.
        "If there had been problems with the foundation, we would have to have a portion of the house taken down to the ground," he says.
        Sometimes during such inspections, he finds the house wasn't constructed properly to begin with — which raises another set of problems.
        "Structural engineers basically are people interested in what holds buildings up," says James Madison Cutts, whose District firm designed the steel supports for the WashingtonConvention Center and currently is working on the underground visitors center at the WashingtonMonument.
         "We create what they envision," he says. "We go back and forth on the phone talking over what will work and what will not. The next stage is to use horse sense to figure out what is practical. Then you or an assistant put calculations on paper."
        Until about 10 years ago, the calculations were done by hand. Today, larger firms use drafting technicians or computers for this stage.
        "A structural engineer always has to remember that what you draw has to be built by someone who may only have a high school education," he reflects.
        Spring rains toppled a 50-foot-long, 10-foot-high retaining wall and pushed it into an alley off Branch Avenue in Southeast. The owners called in Capitol Hill builder and restorer Joel Truitt, who in turn called on Sachchida Gupta of SNG Engineering in Gaithersburg to prepare drawings necessary for a permit to rebuild the wall. A mason said he could put it back together for $30,000 to $40,000. Mr. Gupta came up with an approach using textured cinder block that would cost just $20,000.
        Mr. Gupta has been busy of late with the construction of a 24,000-square-foot private residence in Potomac that is expected to take a year to complete. One of the challenges is designing a foundation and support beams to hold up the extra weight of floors that will be covered with marble and exterior walls that will be covered with Turkish sandstone.
        Spacious mansions are nothing new for the Indian-born Mr. Gupta, who, while employed 17 years by the Bechtel Corp., helped design the palace of the Sultan of Brunei, including a 400-foot-long, 100-foot-wide waterfall on the property.
        "A lot of people's lives depend on your work," he says, recalling the time he designed a railroad bridge in upstate New York and volunteered to be under the bridge when the first train passed overhead.