Engineers construct togetherness

Andy Hsiao Chung, Staff Writer

Pitt-Johnstown civil engineers March 20 led off a week to celebrate engineering with a banquet hosted by the Altoona Section American Society of Highway Engineers.

A society member had contacted Pitt-Johnstown’s civil engineering faculty member Brian Houston, expressing the group’s interest in meeting students.

“They contacted me,” said Houston, “So I sent (a society representative) to (UPJ) Conference Services, and he organized this (banquet); while I organized to get students here.”

Behind the urbane furors and aside a row of buffet chafing dishes, were piled career handouts and business cards from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

Houston said many civil engineering students end up working for PennDOT, as highway engineers tend to; or consulting firms that work with PennDOT on highway projects.

Aside from the banquet’s networking aspect, the Pitt-Johnstown Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge team members acquainted attendees with their projects.

Concrete Canoe team captain Patricia Wardy revealed this year’s canoe theme to be the Quecreek Mine Rescue; which happened in Somerset County in 2002, where nine miners were trapped underground and eventually rescued.

Wardy said the team had taken a field trip to the rescue sight – Dormel Farm — and met with a woman who owns the property.

“She talked to us about the rescue, and offered us presentations with pictures.”

Wardy retained details as to how this theme would be incorporated into the canoe’s design, but said it would focus on the miners themselves.

The Pitt-Johnstown Concrete Canoe team has reached nationals the past three years in a row and four years out of the past five.

The Steel Bridge team, whose members were enkindled for this year’s competition, expects to perform much better than last year, said team member Christopher Bolich.

The competition is categorized and evaluated in 3 parts; how much a bridge sags when encumbered with 250 pounds; how much it bends when folded; and its build-time being only able to carry one piece at a time.

“Already our (Steel Bridge) weight is down from last year,” Bolich, “and building time is around what it was last year.

“The bridge gets taken apart every day, and we had built that this morning,” Bolich pointed across the banquet hall and behind a glass, where a miniature steel bridge lay.

Houston said that several society members are Pitt-Johnstown graduates, and the banquet reception was the definition of networking.

“You have 30, 40 industry people here and 20 students who are looking for internships and jobs for the summer.”