Orange County Branch Newsletter

November 2011

President's Message


By Joshua Nelson, PE
ASCE OC President

Now that I got your attention - want to find out how to attend one of our luncheons FOR FREE? Last month I put a little contest at the bottom of my article. Well since either no one made it that far through my article or I hid the orange too well (I'd prefer to think the latter), I decided to mention it up front and give you a clue. If you wanted to see people or companies that support the branch, where would you look? If you still can't find the orange, be sure to check our Facebook page, or our LinkedIn page or our Twitter page for clues. Since no one contacted me, the free lunch is still available as well as the four $5 discounts. See the bottom of this article for the details again of what you are looking for.

Well it has been a busy couple months for me and the ASCE Orange County Branch. It started with my visit to the society headquarters in Reston, VA in September followed up by our luncheon in October. I wanted to quickly mention that our October topic and speaker was probably one of my favorite luncheons we have had in awhile. I HIGHLY encourage you to at least read through the PDF that you can find here. Next was my trip to the annual convention in Memphis, TN. Unfortunately, Elvis was nowhere to be found. It was a great conference and only the second time I have attended the annual conference. There were about 800 in attendence. The opening session speaker was Dr. G. Wayne Clough, Ph.D.,P.E.,Dist.M.ASCE who holds the job of Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.Where you and I might talk about 20 year, 50 year, or maybe even 100 year lifespans for our projects, it was interesting to hear about how they have to design a lot of their infrastructure to last 500 years or longer. Another highlight of the trip was that I got to take a tour with the Army Corp of Engineers down the Mississippi River and see some of the damage from the high volume of flow they experience. The flow through Memphis was over 2 million CFS which was enough flow to fill a football field with 40 feet of water in 1 second! It was truly amazing to see the power the might Mississippi had during those flows. We were also able to see some of the habitat restoration programs they were implementing in the area.

Another speaker that was fascinating was Mitch Jackson, Vice President of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability for FedEx Corporation. FedEx has their main world super hub at the Memphis airport. He discussed how they were pioneers in developing new technologies for their vehicles and have provided their technology to others. They chose not to keep their inventions a proprietary product so as to spur other companies to latch on to their ideas and spread the technology further. When I first read the program, they listed a tour of the FedEx hub from 10:30 pm to 2:00 am. I thought that had to be a typo, but I signed up anyways. Turned out it wasn't a typo. FedEx has 8,000 employes that show up for 4 hour shift from around 10:30 at night until 2:30 in the morning. The streets around the airport are buzzing with all the people showing up for work. It was trully a small city of people all showing up at once. They have a very fast paced flurry of activities that have to happen quickly as you can imagine. From the time we got there to the time we were leaving there were planes constantly landing and taking off. FedEx has automated a lot of it, but it still takes quite a few people. The logistics of everything was mind boggling. All 8,000 people also have to go through typical airport security and then catch a shuttle to their part of the campus to do their job. About half of the employees get to work longer than 4 hours. However, FedEx gives all their employees full benefits regardless of how many hours they get. It seems everyone I bumped into in Memphis that lived there either worked multiple jobs, one of which was for FedEx or someone in their family did. I have no doubt that FedEx is almost single handedly keeping the economy moving in Memphis. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to see their operations. We weren't allowed to take pictures or even have our phones on but I was able to find this video that FedEx posted on Youtube. Let's just say I will always make sure I put a lot of padding inside my FedEx packages. That's not to say they didn't handle them well, they just move fast. They had these conveyor belts that were probably moving boxes at about 30 mph or so. Watch the video if you are interested. They process 2.2 million packages per day!

All in  all it was a great trip that included very little sleep but I was able to pack in a lot of activities. Our new president - Andrew Herrmann was sworn in. He was introduced by his daughter who gave a hilarious account of her childhood as a daughter of a Civil Engineer. I am sure my daughters can already relate and will have many stories of their own to tell someday. She said she was the only one in her class that knew there was a difference between cement and concrete. Likewise my daughters know the difference between a sewer and a storm drain. After his daughter's comedic introduction, they then played this video that I figured I could share with you in case you want to get to know him a little better.

Andrew was our speaker at last year's student night. We always try to get our society president-elect each November. This is a good segway to remind you that this year's student night is coming up quickly. It is Tuesday, November 15th, 2011 at the UCI University Club. Make sure you sign up here.

Finally, somewhere on our website I have hidden the image below (the orange). If you find it, email me at and tell me where you found it. The first person to email me gets a free lunch at an upcoming luncheon, and the second through fifth members who find it get a coupon for $5 off a luncheon. However, board members and committee chairs aren't eligible (though you can email me for the volunteer coupon that we offer each month), but feel free to email me anyways and I will let you know what place you came in.