Orange County Branch Newsletter

Celebrating 63 Years of Service

March 2018

President's Message

Do You Believe in Luck?

I had the opportunity to participate as part of industry panels for two of our Branch’s student chapters over the past couple of weeks, where we discussed how students can best position themselves for internships and career opportunities.  Our University Outreach Committee and student chapter liaisons, along with support from other ASCE OC leaders, coordinated the panel presentations for Cal State – Fullerton, Cal State – Long Beach, and UC – Irvine.  We discussed job search resources, developing a personal brand, networking, resume hints, and interviewing skills.  I was very impressed with the honesty students showed when sharing concerns and fears, and their motivation to invest the time and effort to best position themselves for their career.

The conversations between the attendees and panel members were inspiring, and led me to think back to my job search experiences. I received advice from family, friends, and colleagues, and put in my fair share of time on the internet searching for job listings and learning about engineering firms. I recall one of the interviews involved writing a short one-page response to a comment/question of my choosing from a list of options.  One of the questions jumped out to me right away:

“Do you believe in Luck?”

What a great question.  How someone answers can tell you a lot about their personality, outlook, appreciation for those around them, and what they think of themselves. It caught me off guard, as I was not expecting such a touchy-feely question during an interview for an engineering firm. I quickly became excited as I thought about what I may write.  While there is no single correct response, there are several ways you can answer it incorrectly. We’ve all been around folks who would provide responses such as:

  • Yes, I believe in luck. I have seen several other people be lucky and get promoted or get great projects, but I have not been as lucky as them.
  • Yes, I believe in luck. I have been unlucky throughout my life and career. It seems like bad things always happen to me, and I try to persevere, but bad luck is holding me back.
  • No, I don’t believe in luck. I’ve been successful because of my intelligence, talent, and because I deserve it.

My response was a little different than those, but please note that this is Jeff Braun’s personal opinion, and not an official correct answer provided by ASCE during a recent “How to Be More Lucky” seminar.

I consider myself to be very lucky. I was born into a loving, supportive family in an environment where I was able to focus on learning and having fun, not worry about where my next meal or drink of clean water would come from. I’ve also seen examples of bad luck, knowing several people who have been stricken with horrible illnesses. There are plenty of other examples of luck I’ve experienced through my life and career, but some happened because I put myself in position to be lucky.

When it comes to career and success, those who envy others often try to make themselves feel better by saying the other person was just “lucky”. I STRONGLY disagree. Even a lottery winner has to buy the ticket and put themselves in position to win.  Your coworker who got the promotion or was assigned to that awesome project was considered because they worked hard to earn their degree(s) and gain the necessary experience.  In addition, they most likely let their desire to be on the project known to their supervisor and the project manager.

Sadly, I’ve seen coworkers throughout my career that take a passive attitude to professional development and new opportunities, thinking that as long as they complete assigned tasks and don’t make waves, their firms will invest the time and effort to help them develop new skills, ask them to be on the project team for the really cool project, and maybe offer a promotion. If those opportunities aren’t offered, they become disgruntled.  Their attitude impacts their performance and spreads to those around them.

Opportunities are offered to those who demonstrate passion and dedication, whether through openly sharing their desire, or through their obvious personal investment in developing skills beyond the normal day-to-day work. It is too easy for me to say that the only reason I am not an NBA superstar right now is that I wasn’t born with the size and athletic ability of LeBron James.  That is incredibly disrespectful to the dedication and sacrifice any athlete has demonstrated to get to their level - the countless hours at the playground or in the gym, the missed family functions or nights with friends, and the painful sports injuries.

Your success, and that of your peers, can be credited to dedication to developing the skills you need, surrounding yourself with successful people, and seeking out opportunities. I know this is pretty much preaching to the choir, as most folks reading this are already committed to advancing the civil engineering profession, attending technical institute seminars on the latest analyses, and networking with peers and potential clients and luncheons and social events. 

I still believe luck impacts us throughout our life and career.  I have been lucky with respect to the people and opportunities that have crossed my path.  What is completely within your control, is whether you are putting yourself in position to be lucky, and what you do with the opportunities. 

Are you exposing yourself to situations where you be lucky enough to meet great people and hear about game-changing opportunities on the horizon? Have you spent time learning more about your profession, or about other disciplines you’re developing a passion for, so you can take advantage of the opportunity when it arrives?

If you want to create more of your own luck and kick butt once it happens, I have a suggestion on where to start …

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ASCE OC K-12 Outreach Committee

Starting Off Strong in 2018

ASCE’s K-12 Committee has started off the year in high gear. We have had several events through February and have many more planned for the rest of the year.

•     On January 27th, ASCE members served as volunteers and judges at the Academic Decathlon event in Tustin High School.

•     On January 31st, our Committee Co-chair, Isamar Escobar presented at Audeo Charter School’s Career Day.

•     During E-Week, we had two events on Friday, February 23rd.

⁃   Our K-12 Co-Chair Jenny Mital and committee members Evelyn Tran and Crystal Mena collaborated with the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove to host a Dream Big showing event at Patton Elementary School. The event consisted of approximately thirty elementary students and started with an introductory presentation by the three ASCE volunteers. The students then watched the film and a 15-minute Q&A followed. The students were very engaged and asked many questions regarding civil engineering and the Dream Big film.

⁃   Our K-12 Co-Chair Isamar Escobar and committee members Victor Aguirre, Cristen Alvarez and Mike Cattabiani helped run a Spaghetti Marshmallow Tower activity during Rancho Canada Elementary’s Science Technology Engineering Art and Math (STEAM) night. Throughout the night, elementary students and their parents visited the ASCE room to build the tallest tower possible.

ASCE OC K-12 volunteer opportunities coming up include:

•     March 15th - STEM Night at Perry Elementary

•     March 24th - Saddleback Valley Unified School District STEM Expo

•     Late April/Early May - Dream Big Event that will include booth and activities from ASCE’s institutes and other engineering organizations

If you are interested in becoming involved or volunteering for any of the above events please contact Isamar Escobar or Jenny Mital at [email protected].

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ASCE OC Transportation & Development Institute

Delivering the State's First Diverging Diamond Interchange

The ASCE Orange County Branch in conjunction with the Transportation and Development Institute organized a luncheon with speakers from Mark Thomas regarding Delivering the State’s First Diverging Diamond Interchange for Manteca, CA at the State Route 120/Union Road Interchange. The speakers Rob Himes – President of Mark Thomas and Aaron Silva – Deputy Project Manager were critical to the development of the project from initial concept – where the project started from its current existing condition as a Caltrans L-1 interchange to original design concept as an L-1/L-7 and was finally developed into its current configuration as a Diverging Diamond Interchange. The development of the concept into its final configuration helped save the City of Manteca, millions of dollars in design and construction.


The speakers were engaging and used humor and their technical expertise to discuss the history of interchange design from Caltrans starting from inception in the 1950’s to the present. As they begun the development of the first Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), they worked closely with Caltrans to develop DIB #90. Their presentation outlined the key benefits of DDIs, which includes a significant increase in traffic operations and a decrease in conflict points when compared to Diamond Interchanges, Single Point User Interchanges (SPUIs) and DDIs. In short, a reduction of nearly half the conflict points between Diamond Interchanges and DDI’s.

Furthermore, the team came with an innovative solution for pedestrian and bicycle circulation from the traditional concepts that have been utilized on DDI’s through the US, which circulate pedestrian traffic through the middle of a DDI. Their concept included keeping pedestrian circulation on the outside and creating a separated bike path, which would facilitate a key connection point for bicyclist while greatly increasing safety. This concept utilized from another Mark Thomas project, showed these key connections can completely transform bicycle circulation in a positive manner - this was shown with bicycle circulation heat maps, which showed a new trend in bicycle circulation once a new bike route that enhances safety is constructed.

Finally, the presenters discussed key geometric design criteria differences between traditional ramp interchanges and those established and required as part of a DDI. These criteria were developed in conjunction with Caltrans as part of this pilot project with the City of Manteca. Overall, the presenters did an excellent job to briefly cover key issues and challenges while providing critical information on the successful delivery of the State’s first DDI.

It was evident based on the presentation that as DDI’s become more prevalent within California and as more are currently being proposed during Alternative development, one thing is certain – a DDI doesn’t work in every scenario. The development of a DDI is constrained greatly by existing conditions, traffic patterns and volumes and the proper evaluation of those constraints is critical to the success and adoption of this innovative interchange concept.

To view presentation slides, click here.

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Risk Assessment and Mitigation in Geotechnical Practice

The Orange County Geo-Institute (G-I), Continuing Education Committee (CEC), and Professional Development Committee (PDC) co-hosted a half-day seminar focused on risk assessment and mitigation in the geotechnical practice.  The seminar was held on February 9, 2018 and located in Irvine, California. 

Presentations were headlined by national leaders in the field of risk in geotechnics and consisted of the following:

  • Risk Assessment in Geotechnical Engineering
    • Mr. Vaughan Griffiths PhD, DSc, PE, D.GE, F.ASCE, Professor - Civil Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines
  • Case Histories in Forensic Geotechnical Engineering 
    • Mr. Robert Gilbert PhD, F.ASCE, Professor and Chair of the Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin
  • System Reliability of Flood Control Levees
    • Mr. Jonathan P. Stewart PhD, PE, F.ASCE, Professor and Chair of the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at University of California, Los Angeles
  • Infrastructure Lifelines Systems: Risk and Reliability
    • Mr. Robb Moss PhD, PE, F.ASCE, Professor - Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

The presentations covered a wide range of topics, including risk analysis theory, case studies of levees and off-shore structures, and an overview of risk assessment of lifelines systems (power, water, sewer, etc.).  The event was well-attended by about 50 academics, practicing engineers, and students.

We would like to thank our sponsors for their support: Hayward Baker, Western Ground Improvement, Cascade Drilling, Farrell Design-Build, and Middle Earth Geo Testing.

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ASCE OC YMF and Society of Women Engineers Joint Event

Leisa Reid - "Creating a Winning Mindset"

People are creatures of habit. Five days out of the week, we wake up, go to our office, work throughout the day, come home, and repeat the next day. After doing it for so long it is no wonder we repeat things like parking in the same spot every day, or always sitting in the same chair in the meeting room. Now ask yourself why you do that? The answer lies in your subconscious ways of thinking and is the basis for Leisa Reid’s presentation called “Creating a Winning Mindset.” This event helped engineers reflect on their current goals and highlight the thought processes that are holding them back.  

The human mind has thirty thoughts per second which adds up to about 2.6 million thoughts per day. Ten percent of these thoughts are conscious and ninety percent are subconscious. Leisa explained the importance of having your conscious and subconscious thoughts aligned to reach your goals. For example, you may want to be a great public speaker, but you are a nervous wreck when speaking in front of people. The uneasiness your body feels when speaking aloud is connected to something that has been embedded into your head. You may want to have a great presentation consciously but your subconscious mind has already decided to retreat and protect itself. The important part of overcoming this feeling is catching the negative thoughts at that moment and reflecting on why these thoughts come into your head. Through this practice you will find the root of the problem and that is when you can begin to overcome yourself.

This was another great event hosted by OC SWE and ASCE OC YMF. It was refreshing to see so many engineers looking to improve on themselves. We are looking forward to working with OC SWE on future events and would like to thank Leisa Reid for doing a wonderful presentation.

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ASCE OC Younger Members Forum

Annual Wine Trip

OC YMF had the pleasure to host their annual Temecula Wine Trip on December 2, 2017. Like last year, this year’s trip was a full house, a fun filled event where participants enjoyed FOUR unique Wineries. Everybody had the pleasure of socializing with YMF members, friends and family who attended at these award-winning wineries in the Temecula Valley, offering their delicious, locally made wines at affordable prices.

With their great history and beautiful vineyard, “Callaway Winery” was the first stop of the trip. “Leoness Cellars” which was the second stop where attendees had the pleasure to enjoy some of the most beautiful views in the wine country from this family owned winery's unique vantage point, perched above the vineyards.

The third location, another great winery, but also famous for their ‘brie bread’ the “Maurice Car’rie Winery” was the designated spot for lunch during the wine trip. Our last winery on the trip was the “Long Shadow Ranch Winery” which was filled with history and charm of the “Old West” where Stables and horses surround the vineyard. All together, the wine trip was a great event where everybody who attended had the chance to learn and try new wines while having a great relaxing fun filled day. I definitely recommend attending this trip if you have not. 

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ASCE Orange County Branch

ASCE OC New Members March 2018

Welcome to the American Society of Civil Engineers! We are happy you joined us in ASCE's Orange County Branch. Remember...there are 101 ways to benefit from your membership with ASCE. Become involved, educate yourself on a engineering topic outside of your expertise, build relationships with others in the industry - to name a few.

Please contact a Board Member if you have questions, or a committee chairperson to become involved.

Welcome New Members:
December 2017

MRS Sahar Ahmed
MS Ashlyn Alexander
MR Lance Dominic Angeles
MS Jessica Avila
MS Mirna Beshay Tadrous
MS Jazmine Green
MR Rexford Harris
MR Eric Mazzella
MR Alberto Platas
David Ramirez
HON Gregory Sebourn
MS Jocelyne Vasquez
MR Khang Vo

January 2018

MR Mohammad Albisher
MR Ali Ali
MISS Lysabela Amaya
MR Jad Boukai
MR Jonathon Chavez
MR Rogelio Cortes
MR Ahmad Faqih
MS Zandra Follero
MISS Gianna Furumoto
MRS Lorenz Hernandez
MR Adam Klaes
MS Stefany Leal
MISS Camryn Lopez
MISS Lauren McGiven
MS Thuc Nguyen
MR Joseph Nye
MR Michael Olsen
MR Quoc-Hung Phan
MS Anna Philipp
MR Sujal Shah
MR Mohammad Tohmeh
MISS Katherine Woo
MS Roni Young

February 2018

MR Jose A La Torre
MR Aaron Christy
MR Carter Cox
MR Omer Eljairi
MR Bryan Esparza
MR Soung Bae Kim
MR Karim Koueider
MR Duy Nguyen
MR Son Nguyen
MR Lander Pham
MISS Teresa Pham
MR Eric Poomi
MR Matt Tomanek
MR Justin Welch

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Local News

The Self-Driving Car Revolution in LA

Los Angeles was host to an impressive and informative tech-talk on December 1st at Los Angeles City Hall.  Perched atop the city, “The Self-Driving Car Revolution: a TechFire Summit” brought together top leaders from Silicon Valley, Washington DC, and beyond to discuss the future of Autonomous Vehicles, the policies that should be implemented, and the impact those will have on our society.  Speakers for the event included Chris Urmson, Founder/CEO of Aurora Innovation, former director of Google’s Self Driving Car Project; Heidi King, Deputy Administrator for the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration; Councilman Mike Bonin, Los Angeles City Council Transportation Chair; Randy Iwasaki, PE, Executive Director for Contra Costa Transportation Authority / Gomentum Station; and Bran Ferren, Co-Founder, Chief Creative Officer, Applied Minds.  Members of the audience represented a diverse crowd including engineers, local politicians, insurance agents, entertainment industry representatives, business owners and many more.

MC for the event was David Murphy, CEO of TechFire, who compared the moment we are in to the horse and buggy transition to automobiles.  He encouraged the audience with a cautionary optimistic message that a true revolution is on the horizon, but that we must start thinking about the implications that come with new technology including how we think about redoing the urban landscape and the economic need of workers that may be displaced. 

The first speaker, Chris Urmson, shared some of his background with his involvement in “The Grand Challenge,” a competition to have a vehicle drive itself from Los Angeles to Las Vegas without human guidance or intervention.  His first attempt in 2004 ended how most of us would imagine, in a burst of flames.  A year later, five teams had completed the challenge. He worked a short time for Google’s Self Driving Car Project before ultimately starting his own company, Aurora Innovation, which now focuses on delivering innovative software solutions for the complex process of crunching all the tech data.  His goals are to bring this new technology to the automotive industry to improve safety and reliability of autonomous vehicles. 

Safety, then, proved to be the highlight of the show.  Heidi King, Deputy Administrator for the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) began discussing safety implications that self-driving cars will bring about.  The role of NHTSA is to reduce injuries resulting from traffic collisions and to reduce economic costs resulting from those crashes.  Last year alone, 37,461 lives were lost as a result of automotive accidents. However, as studies show, from the staggering statistic here, 94% of collisions result from human error.  In hopes of lowering this harm the NHTSA has released their vision for safety:  establish guidance that asks manufacturers to provide a voluntary self-assessment on 12 safety design features and include best practices for state and local governments.  But why a voluntary guidance?  Mrs. King explained that the technology leaps and bounds are incredibly difficult to predict; the idea is to create a community that offers transparency in developing technology together, collaboratively, encouraging a dialogue between policy makers and visionaries.

The next speaker, Councilman Mike Bonin, a true visionary politician himself, was able to pose difficult questions that ultimately help focus the discussion back on societal impacts.  Looking back at the invention of the combustion engine and Americans’ dependency on the automobile we can see how this has had a transformative effect on our communities and shared experience.  By allowing convenient access we have essentially pushed each other apart as apparent by urban sprawl.  He challenges the audience by asking if autonomous vehicles will not perpetuate that if we no longer dread the commute. Queue the Entertainment industry eager for new viewership.  Another issue he discussed is who will own these vehicles?  Queue the Insurance industry trying to figure out who is at fault. Not only who will own these vehicles, but what impacts would a shared mobility vehicle bring to those in poverty?  He then shared a statistic that most probably have never considered: there are 12 times as many jobs available to an individual that can arrive by car than by mass transit in LA.  LA has been on the forefront of new innovation and technology and his goals for the future focus on the keywords – connect, share, electric.  This is evident with a pilot program for shared electric vehicles targeting low income communities to address equity.  His take away message is that we need to start thinking about the impacts and implications of this coming technological advancement to avoid making some of the mistakes we have made in the past.  As he put it, “after revolution you need a constitution.”

The next speaker, Randy Iwasaki, P.E., is the Executive Director for the Transportation Authority in Contra Costa County and he shared innovative ideas and practices that are being experimented in Northern California and how they are trying to redefine mobility.  On top of the bus pass program for underprivileged kids, funding local street and road improvement projects and helping fund BART, they also helped deliver 25 years of construction projects in 10 years.  He presented on smart cities, the idea that infrastructure can communicate and a city can provide better information to help drive smarter and make more informed decisions.  They have developed a testing facility on a naval base with conditions intentionally set up to trick some of the smartest sensors in the market in an effort to bring smart jobs to the area.

As the final speaker, Bran Ferren, Co Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Applied Minds, already featured in a similar Ted-Talk, really drove home the need for collaboration between the thinkers and the policy makers.  He likened the difficulty in getting automotive manufacturers to shift their focus from the driveline and performance of their vehicles to smart technology and software applications to trying to sell Wilbur and Orville Wright on the idea that frequent flyer miles would revolutionize the airline industry.  The point he is trying to make is that – over time peoples’ perceptions change; the way our grandparents viewed their custom built hot rod is different from the way a family views their minivan to transport busy lives which, in turn, is different from the single use autonomous vehicles that will transport millennials.  “Part of the challenge is having flexibility in empowering people’s lives and understanding that cars are not just about basic transportation, they are about passion.  They are about self-image. If you ignore those things you are going to have a hard problem because that’s the way the community is feeling.”  What we see now are automotive companies shifting the focus to transportation services and taking a step back to add a bit of perspective.  “The future of intelligent cities is looking at them as a system and self-driving cars as a subsystem.”

Mr. Ferren’s closing remarks really helped drive home the importance of collaboration moving forward and the difficulties still to overcome.

“There really are two kinds of people that are driving this revolution.  On the one side, there are requirements people. Their view is that we have to put out a set of rules, regulations, requirements that will establish the roadmap forward, and then, we will all follow those to reach an optimal solution. The other process is driven by big idea people, who basically say, ‘I just have a vision for the future and I’m going to do it and try to stop me.’ Big idea people are on this side of the room and regulatory people are on that side of the room.  These people hate each other, it’s as simple as that.  If we get the two working together to put a process in place where there is mutual respect, we could realize our mutual goals much faster. So why would they do this?  People who have different DNA and the way they think about the world? Simple – because they will both fail if they don’t.  Once you get scared enough to realize that your future depends upon collaborating with people who have a different way of thinking about the world than you do, then you have the basis to move forward. What’s exciting to me is that it’s starting to happen now, which is a good sign for the future.”

After an intense question and answer session, the event ended with an optimistic and collaborative tone.  We are at a very interesting point in time, a revolution is happening and it is promising to see so many industries coming together to guide the way forward.  How we handle the challenges ahead will be felt by generations to come.  The Self Driving Car Revolution is upon us and we all have a chance to take the wheel.

Video and transcript from the event are available online:

For more information on Techfire including upcoming events visit:

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Local News

TCA Releases Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report

Fiscal Year 2017 was a record-breaking year for the Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) with more than 300,000 commuters and visitors driving the 73, 133, 241 and 261 Toll Roads every day. Other TCA highlights from Fiscal Year 2017 include:

  • All-time high transactions and revenue numbers
  • Nearly 100 million tolls collected in 12 months
  • More than one million open accounts
  • Bond ratings upgrades, strong liquidity and growing reserve funds balances
  • Ridership increased by 19 percent over the last three years

Learn more about TCA’s accomplishments by viewing the Fiscal Year 2017 Annual Report

Publications Committee

Newsletter Information

ASCE Orange County Branch - Publications Committee  Information

Editor / Committee Chair:

Robert Martinez, E.I.T., 

Email: [email protected]

Committee Co-Chairs:

Alex Maher, E.I.T.,

Elizabeth Ruedas, P.E., QISP, ENV SP

Do you have an interesting topic you would like to share?  We are always looking for new and relevant content to distribute to our members relating to Civil Engineering in Orange County (no ads!).  If you have an idea please feel free to submit it to the Publications Committee! You will receive a confirmation email; however, no futher acknowledgement will be sent.  There is no guarantee of publication.

Advertising Rates:

Company Business Cards / Professional Directory: $300 for 177px X 300px ad placed in the newsletter and on our website for the year.

Newsletter ads: Tier 1 - $300, Tier 2 - $250, Tier 3 - $200 for 300px X 800px ad placed between articles in the monthly newsletter.

Annual Sponsorship Opportunities: See our website for information on how to become an annual sponsor for even more benefits.

For more advertising and biling information please contact Robert Martinez at [email protected]

National ASCE: (800) 548-2723 (ASCE),

LA Section:

Orange County Branch: