Orange County Branch Newsletter
President’s Article October 2014
By Gary Gilbert, PE, GE
I want to thank the members of the Orange County Branch for electing me as Branch President this year. Since my involvement as president of the Cal State Long Beach student chapter, I have observed the past board members venture into uncharted territory and constantly improve the Orange County Branch each year. The current board plans to build upon the solid foundation the past boards built.
Last year, the board of directors had our first retreat and we realized we needed to change our events so they reflect the interests of the current membership. In addition, we realized we have room for improved interaction between all experienced levels of engineers. I recall being intimidated by the Orange County Branch when I was a student and younger member. Experienced members tend to be very active in ASCE over a short duration of time and then we never see them again. To address this issue, we are working on providing opportunities for younger members and experienced members to interact in a more casual and fun atmosphere. Over my next few articles I plan to elaborate on how the Orange County Branch is going to tackle the issue of having programs that involve members from all experience levels.
A common activity shared by students, younger members, experienced members, and life members is K-12 outreach. However, the different groups don’t often interact with each other. So we are taking advantage of an opportunity that has come up for ASCE to work with Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD) on a new pilot program that will hopefully be expanded throughout Orange County. In collaboration with Chapman University, AUHSD has obtained a grant to train teachers for the next generation science standards. This will provide classes with the opportunity to have projects that emphasize lessons learned in life sciences, earth sciences, chemistry, and physics. The ASCE Orange County Branch is working on a multipart program to educate students at AUHSD about how Civil Engineering relates to their science, math and other classes.
The initial plan is to have ASCE members mentor teachers on how civil engineer relates to the science programs and to be a resource to teachers and answering their questions on Civil Engineering related items that students may be interested in. The plan is to minimize the participation time of the ASCE members so that they would provide 3 to 4 visits during the school year. The ASCE Orange County Branch K-12 Outreach Committee is planning to work closely with mentors to provide the support they will need.
Another component of the ASCE partnership with AUHSD is to visit classrooms. I hope to take elements of my previous experience during Sonia Nasser’s presidency when we visited approximately 40 class rooms. From that experience younger members and student chapters (UCI, CSULB, and CSUF) have taken an active role in the OC Branch K-12 committee. In the last few years, both groups have built connections to schools with annual visitations. When we discuss K-12 outreach with experienced members, we often hear they are giving presentations at their child’s or grandchild’s school. We are hoping to pair younger members with experienced members and students from our three universities to work together to create fun interactive visitations that both the presenters and audience can enjoy. Currently, I am taking the lead on the program with AUHSD and I could use some help with the coordination effort. Ideally we would have at least one person each to coordinate with the junior high schools and high schools.
A third component of the pilot program is to have field trips where students can visit various infrastructure sites either completed or under construction. The challenge is the schools have minimal funds for field trips and the sites are typically not available on the weekends. This is a challenge where we could use some assistance from our membership who can share ideas on how to provide successful field trips for the students.
The last part of the program is actually two elements: The first is to introduce the high school students to the YMF’s Annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition (PSBC) and increase participation by Orange County schools (currently only one school in Orange County participates). The second element is a pilot program with junior high schools to have a project that could potentially be implemented by a school, district, or countywide Science and Engineering Fair. We have started discussions with the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair to see how we could start this program.
Our hope is to have a K-12 outreach program where members from all age groups will have an important part to play and we will create a new framework that can be expanded throughout Orange County. We are going to take small steps and we appreciate any part that our members can play. If we could get 10 percent of our members to participate, that would be 240 members and this would have a huge positive impact for our schools!
The reason I am so passionate about this program is that I was not aware of the civil engineering profession until I was in Junior college (two years after high school). I don’t want students in Orange County to go through Kindergarten to 12th grade and never meet a Civil Engineer. I hope some of our members also share my passion and ASCE can start making a major impact on creating a better understanding about the profession of Civil Engineering amongst students in Orange County’s K-12 education system.