Learning Pittsburgh's Civil Engineering History at the YMF December Dinner

18 Apr 2019 9:56 AM | ASCE Blog Editor (Administrator)

On December 5, 2018, the Pittsburgh Section Younger Members Forum (YMF) held their annual December Dinner event at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh, PA. Of the 62 members and non-members in attendance 11 students were students. The evening began with a networking hour featuring free professional level headshots. Quality, up-to-date headshots are often undervalued or forgotten by some professionals. However, in this age of information sharing and telecommunication having a polished and professional headshot on-hand makes a good impression; be it within a statement of interest, job application, or award nomination.

Dinner followed the networking hour allowing time for more in depth connections to be formed.   Catherine Bazan-Arias began the presentation part of the evening with an introduction to “Engineering Pittsburgh: A History of Roads, Rails, Canals, Bridges and More”, an ASCE Pittsburgh Section publication written by 16 professionals to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the formation of the ASCE section in Pittsburgh. Ms. Bazan-Arias spoke about the challenges and great rewards that come from undertaking a publication of this type. Without the tools of email, teleconferencing, and other information sharing approaches this project that required the coordination of 16 authors likely would not have been accomplished within the 2 year schedule. Learning how to appropriately use these tools is important to advancing one’s career and the civil engineering profession as a whole.

Following Ms. Bazan-Arias introduction, we were fortunate enough to have two of the 16 authors give a summary of their individual chapters.  Sam Shamsi began by speaking on the history and progression of the wastewater collection, conveyance, and treatment in the Allegheny County.  The first public drinking water system in Pittsburgh began in 1802.  In the 1950s Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) wastewater treatment plant was constructed as part of the “Pittsburgh Renaissance”.  Now ALCONSAN and Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PSWA) are challenging the traditional wastewater infrastructure of pipes, pumps, and storage tanks by supporting sustainable projects that include rain gardens, green roofs, and porous pavement.

Todd Wilson then shared several before and after pictures of bridges and intersections familiar to the downtown Pittsburgh and Oakland landscape. He explained that some of the odd intersection configurations or topography around Pittsburgh resulted from the previous existence of a bridge or industrial route. He gave tips on how to spot areas where an old bridge has been filled in and/or buried to allow new development on flat ground.  

After the presentations, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy the grounds of the beautiful and historic Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, including the winter garden and light show display. Donations of toys for school age children were collected and gifted to The Brashear Association.

The ASCE YMF leaders fervently thank all those who sponsored the event. Our sponsors’ generosity allow the YMF to provide these great networking and learning opportunities to college students and young professionals. Thank you for investing in the future of the civil engineering industry!


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