Orange County Branch Newsletter

October 2015

Structural Engineering Institute

“STEAM and Whisk(e)y”

By: Chad Harden, PE,SE

The artistic and creative process present in engineering is not typically discussed or recognized.  However, I think after only a decade of practice one can begin to appreciate the engineering process take on certain characteristics of an “artistic” process.  Truly, there is much appreciation of a deliverable or creation, for a design that resolves economy with responsibility, safety with usefulness, technical excellence with constructability, and cooperation with experience and tradition.

“The walls between art and engineering exist only in our minds.” -Theo Jansen

Consider first all the energy we pour into our design process, whether this be an overpass, grading design, environmental process, building or bridge.  Consider second that as humans with (hopefully) an emotional connection to these designs, our own opinions and experience will inadvertently express ourselves through and within our creations.  I don’t know of a better example or definition for art than this wonderfully tangled design process.  This is the critical component of the STEAM movement (science, technology, engineering, ART and math), to acknowledge and encourage the benefits of creative process in learning AND practice (,

That being said, I have personally come to appreciate almost any opportunity where we can learn straight from the artist about their creative process, and therefore fully appreciate the development of the creation itself. In the case of our Joint ASCE OC Branch / SEI Social Event, engineers and planners across all fields of civil and structural engineering came together to both relax, converse and learn about the great whisk(e)y art traditions.

Our World of Whisk(e)y tasting was a tremendous and unprecedented success! We had 17 attendees at ChapterOne restaurant in Santa Ana, with many thanks to our event sponsor SISGEO North America (  I also want to personally extend my thanks to each and every person attending our first SEI social event.  Brandon with the Orange County Scotch Society led us through 4 whiskey tastings:

  • George Dickel Rye
  • Breuckelen 77 Wheated Whiskey
  • Knappogue Castle, 12 year Irish Whiskey
  • Glenmorangie, Nectar D’Or

ChapterOne tasting cards featuring savory, paired courses and our Sponsor’s logo!

This really was an adventure across the continents, starting with the George Dickel rye whiskey, distilled from a recipe that had nearly been lost during prohibition in 1916, but recrafted from original mashbill manuscripts in 1958. A tasting with an exciting new product followed, with the Breuckelen 77 Wheated Whiskey.  The wheated whiskeys are gaining popularity in America due to the energy around the Pappy Van Winkle expressions.

Now to cross the ocean to Ireland – with Knapogue Castle 12-year Single Malt Irish Whiskey.  This was an exciting Irish blend that had a touch of peat smokiness reminiscent of its Scottish cousins. The tastings concluded with the Nectar D'Or expression from the Glenmorangie Distillery, aged in French wine casks and non chill-filtered which protects additional flavors and mouthfeels.

Our group at the ChapterOne Red Room!

Thank you to our event sponsor!

With this successful event, I look forward to future social events as we build awareness and momentum around SEI Orange County.  Please email me with ideas on future events, questions or to get involved!

To bring this discussion full circle, I would like to finally bring your attention to a special SEI need related to STEAM!  The Popsicle Stick Bridge competition is an annual event hosted by ASCE’s Orange County, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino Riverside Younger Member groups. We need help from structural folks to review the rules for next year and come up with some great ideas! Also needed are members to help run the event!  The event is designed for high school students in these areas to develop engineering skills through critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and creativity. The competition consists of building a bridge, writing a technical report, giving a presentation, and participating in an impromptu competition the day of the event. This year, the event will be held at the Anaheim Regional transportation Intermodal Center on Saturday, February 20th, 2016. Registration will open in November! To get involved please contact the organizers, and for more information see the following flyer, or check out:


That was a complicated segue between the STEAM movement and our light-hearted and extremely fun Whisk(e)y tasting, but I did it!  After all, we can’t have an entire article devoted to Whiskey in a publication devoted to engineering… can we?

Save the Date!  22nd Annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition! Click here to view the flyer.

Thank you!

Chair, ASCE SEI – Orange County Branch
Michael Baker International
(949) 855-7058