Orange County Branch Newsletter

December 2011

Secretary's Column

Inspire Future Engineers

By Gary Gilbert, P.E., G.E.

When I attend grade school through high school we had architects and electrical engineers come to my schools to talk about opportunities for careers after graduation, and one group that was missing was Civil Engineers. If a Civil Engineer spoke to me before graduation from high school, I would probably not have spent 2.5 years in Junior College trying to figure out what career I should choose for my major.  When the opportunity later came up to help with the ASCE OC Branch’s K-12 program I jumped at it.  I felt compelled to support Civil Engineers going in front of these young students and provide them more choices for their future careers.

Anne Awad-Fromhertz and Durry Atassi were great mentors and provided me with opportunities to speak to K-12 students about Civil Engineering.  We visited schools across Orange County from Los Alamitos to San Clemente enlightening the students to the many fields of civil engineering available, including water resources, environmental, geotechnical, transportation, structural, and construction management.  One year during Engineering Week we visited 14 classrooms/clubs at 8 Orange County schools, and then continued to visit several more schools before the school year ended.  OC Branch members were very helpful in providing us the opportunity to speak to the schools their children attended.  It was interesting to learn what the students were interested in.  One year, the students were very excited about a video prepared by the City of Dana Point that shows the students how to sing a song about where the water on their streets ends up.  Many of the students happily sang along.     

When we started to partner with the Orange County Younger Members Forum (OC YMF), and students from University of California, Irvine (UCI) and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) our program started doing more interactive events.  The younger members and college students had great activities that the K-12 students enjoyed, including making items out of popsicles, toothpicks, and straws.   The K-12 students listened more when younger members shared their experience from college and transitioning into the engineering profession.  The college students discussed coarse work and ASCE events like the concrete canoe and steel bridge. The UCI students promoted a program where they took LEGO structures created by high school students and placing them on a shake table at the UCI campus.  The students that we visited at the schools had little idea what a civil engineer was before we came and after our visitations we had a few that were excited about being an engineer in the future.  We received many thank you letters from the students with invitations to return.


The OC YMF continues to have an event, which is the popsicle stick bridge competition where high school students from Orange, Los Angeles, and Riverside Counties participate.  The YMF event is usually held at a local university, and in February 2012 OC YMF is hosting the event at CSULB with the local student chapter.  The high school students give a presentation, get a tour of the campus, participate in a mystery event, and the best part actually load the bridges to failure. 

This month one of the K-12 Outreach co-chairs, Jeannette Linderman, has an article looking for volunteers to help with this year’s program.  Hopefully, our members will take the opportunity to help the OC Branch’s K-12 grow this year and reach more young students waiting for a Civil Engineer to show up and tell them about our exciting career.

On a different topic, the OC Branch board had the opportunity to visit UCI, CSULB, and CSUF with Society’s president-elect Greg DiLoreto.  In addition, we visited the Orange County Water District’s (OCWD) Groundwater Replenishment System (GRS), where Mehul Patel from OCWD was our tour guide.  I have participated in the tour of the OCWD GRS several times in the past, but I still learned more from this visit.  We also learned the GRS is due for an expansion and construction which will be starting soon.  We had a nice lunch with him.  Check out photos our two days with President-Elect Greg DiLoreto and the History & Heritage and Student’s Fellowship Night on the photo stream.

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