Civil Engineers- The Unsung Heroes of Modern Society

“So why is it that although world has some famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van de Rohe, Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid just to name a few, (it) doesn’t have famous traffic engineers?”

Notable Civil Engineers Highway EngineersBrooklyn Bridge In the spirit of innovation, we have started featuring star innovators on our blog each month- people who embody the ideals of innovation in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields. This month, our intention was to feature a prominent Civil Engineer who has made an impact in our daily lives and in public places. What we found is there are countless people who have contributed to the field of civil engineering and deserve accolades, but rarely hear of them.

Though the field of civil engineering has been around for centuries, we know very little about the people who have paved the way (literally in some cases) for us to enjoy the many amenities our modern society has to offer- clean water, railroads, roads, sidewalks, buildings, sewage systems, dams, bridges or airports and so much more.

An Australian Transportation blogger writes in this post,

“So why is it that although world has some famous architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van de Rohe, Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid just to name a few, doesn’t have famous traffic engineers? Why do we have famous economists like Adam Smith, Karl Marx. John Keynes or Milton Friedman and we don’t know of any transport planners? And if for doctors it is quite reasonable to know so many because of all these diseases named after them why is it that we don’t know who designed the first tram system? Or the inventor of Bus Rapid Transit? Why the bridges aren’t named after their designer?”

It’s hard to imagine our lives without civil engineers.  These unsung heroes are responsible for the design and maintenance of both the small and enormous infrastructure projects all over the world.

Here is our list of notable engineers we’d like to highlight (not listed in any particular order) that are considered by many to be leaders in the field of civil engineering and transportation planning. Who would you add to this list? 

Emily Warren Roebling (1843 –1903)

Known as the “first woman field engineer” and saw out the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge.

John Smeaton – (1724 – 1792)

First self proclaimed civil engineer. He is often called the Father of Civil Engineering. His work on waterwheels and windmills contributed to the efficiency of the industrial revolution.

Archie Alphonso Alexander (1888 – 1958)

Prominent transportation engineer recognized for his work on bridges, buildings and utilities. First African American to graduate from the University of Iowa’s College of Engineering.

Benjamin Wright – (1770 – 1842)

The American Society of Civil Engineers declared Benjamin Wright the Father of American Civil Engineering. He was the Chief Engineer during the construction of the Erie Canal and many more notable infrastructure products in the United States.

William Hunter Dammond (1873-1956)

Invented the rail road switching mechanism which enabled trains to change direction. He is also the First African American Graduate from the University of Pittsburgh with a Degree in Civil Engineering.

Squire Whipple – (1804 – 1888)

Designed and built a weigh lock scale to weigh canal boats on the Erie Canal. He also designed and built seven short span iron bridges for the New York and Erie Railroad near Newburgh and Binghamton, New York. Whipple also built the first long span trapezoidal railroad bridges for the New York Railroads.

Elsie Eaves- (1898 – 1983)

The first female associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and a founding member of the American Association of Cost Engineers (now AACE International; the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering)

Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806 – 1859)

Designed tunnels, railway lines, ships and bridges. He is most famous for the network of tunnels, bridges and viaducts he designed for the Great Western Railway. His design methods are still used today in high-speed trains.

Walter Taylor (1872–1955)

Australian visionary and builder of many Brisbane landmarks. His most notable works are the Walter Taylor Bridge and the Graceville Methodist church, both of which are heritage-listed buildings.

Dr. John “Job” Crew Bradfield- (1867-1943)

Prominent Australian engineer who designed and oversaw the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was also appointed Chief Engineer for the metropolitan railway construction in New South Wales.

Olive Dennis- (1885-1957)

The second woman to obtain a Civil Engineering degree from Cornell. She was hired that year as a draftsman by the B & O Railroad to design bridges, eventually changed the nature of railway travel.

Duff A. Abrams- (1880 – 1965)

A researcher in the area of organization and properties of concrete, he was responsible for coming up with the necessary methods for testing concrete characteristics that we still use. President of the American Concrete Association for a year, he discovered the concept of fineness modulus and the definition of water-cement ratio.

Charles Duke

a structural engineer and architect, made distinguished contributions to the development of churches and railroads. irst African American to earn a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1913.

Nora Stanton Blatch Barney- (1883 – 1971)

Famous American civil engineer and architect, the first woman to earn a degree in any type of engineering in the United States; her degree was in civil engineering. In the same year, she was accepted as a junior member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)

Henry Randall Grooms (1944-n/a)

Served on the DC Highway Department as a highway engineer and on the engineering team at Rockwell International where he was awarded Engineer of the Year Award the company’s space division in 1980.

Othmar Hermann Ammann- (1879 – 1965)

A Swiss-born American structural engineer, he designed the Bayonne Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and the famous George Washington Bridge. He also designed more than half of the 11 bridges that attach New York City to the rest of the country. As well as his work on bridges, he planned the construction and directed the building of the Lincoln Tunnel.

We urge to continue to learn about these famous civil engineers and what their inventions have brought to the world by visiting the following resources-
www.facebook.com/notes/structural-engineering-forum-of-india
science.howstuffworks.com/engineering
www.wikiengineer.com/Transportation
www.thefamouspeople.com/civil-engineers
www.i-studentglobal.com/civil-engineering
mobilitymanagementaustralia.blogspot.com.au

photo credit: kumiyama00 via photopin (license)
photo credit: Highway via photopin (license)
photo credit: New York City – Brooklyn Bridge via photopin (license)

The Challenges of Funding our Growing Transportation Needs

Highways and Bridges

Grow America

Transportation is critical to economic growth, however, economic growth is critical to fund the ever changing needs of our transportation system. One cannot exist without the other. The imminent threat of Highway Trust Fund insolvency combined with this paradox is the root of intense debate and discussion in Washington, DC and among key players in the transportation industry.

According to US Department of Transportation, sixty five percent of America’s major roads are rated “less than good” condition, while one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic and 45 percent of Americans do not have access to transit.

One of the proposed solutions to this challenge is The GROW AMERICA Act, a six-year bill that would increase investment for our nation’s highways, bridges, transit, and rail systems by 45%. The proposal is funded by supplementing current revenues from the Highway Trust Fund in combination with a 14 percent transition tax on an estimated $2 trillion of untaxed foreign earnings that U.S. Companies have accumulated overseas.

Critical investments are needed to help communities keep pace with our expanding economy, our growing population, and the traveling needs of the public. This animated video explains the key features of the GROW AMERICA Act and why we need to move forward on a long-term surface transportation bill.

How would you address the funding challenges in our transportation infrastructure?

For more information on this proposed bill and other transportation topics, please visit www.transportation.gov.

photo credit: 2008 06 09 – 3057 – Baltimore – I-895 at Moravia Rd via photopin (license)

2015 Western Bridge Preservation Partnership Meeting

Bridge Preservation
A few months ago, “60 Minutes” aired an insightful report about America’s aging infrastructure. According to the peice, titled “Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure“, 1 in 9 of the 700,000 bridges in the United States is considered “structurally deficient”.

Transportation activists and professionals agree there is an urgent need for lawmakers to invest in the much needed restoration of America’s outdated roads, rails, airports, seaports and bridges. One of the biggest challenges facing transportation engineering and maintenance personnel today is maintaining the integrity of these massive structures used by millions of people every day.

“Our highway infrastructure took decades and generations of Americans to build and is simply too valuable to be left to languish,” says Larry Galehouse, National Center for Pavement Preservation (NCPP) in this post. “As with any valuable asset, we must work hard to preserve it by judicious and timely proactive maintenance.”

Our POLYQuik Performance Products team is looking forward to meeting with bridge practitioners from state and local agencies, contractors, consultants, suppliers, academia, and federal government officials at the 2015 Western Bridge Preservation Partnership Meeting May 18-20, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. The event is a regional forum dedicated to bridge preservation practices throughout the Western Region.

Bridge Preservation is defined as “actions or strategies that prevent, delay or reduce deterioration of bridges or bridge elements, restore the function of existing bridges, keep bridges in good condition and extend their life.” Source: AASHTO Board of Directors, Policy Resolution PR-3-11, October 17, 2011.

The experienced chemists and engineers in our POLYQuik division continue to research and create high performance concrete repair products that are successfully utilized in bridge maintenance. The conference is an opportunity for us to share our concrete repair solutions with bridge maintenance managers, superintendents, designers, crews, planners, programmers, inspectors along with local, state, federal, and other agency bridge owners involved in bridge maintenance activities.

photo credit: “Old Town” Tbilisi and the Mktvari River via photopin (license)

US DOT Unveils Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices

 U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx examines the aging infrasture in our country. Photo via instagram.com/usdot.

In 30 years, how will you travel? That is the question the U.S. Dept. of Transportation wants us to ask ourselves. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was joined recently by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to unveil US DOT’s 30 Year Framework for the Future, Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices.

Beyond Traffic looks at the latest data and anticipates the trends and choices facing our transportation system over the next three decades. If we do not make significant changes, the US DOT predicts our country will face a grim future which will include extreme gridlock, higher costs, and more devastation to our already aging infrastructure.

Secretary Foxx’s draft framework for the future of transportation encourages us to ask ourselves the tough questions, look at the trends, and – hopefully – inspire some innovative thinkers to come up with solutions. “For too long, our national dialogue about transportation has been focused on recreating the past. Instead, we need to focus on the trends that are shaping our future,” he says.

How will we build a transportation system to accommodate a growing population and changing travel patterns?

How will we move things? By 2045, freight volume will increase 45 percent.

How will we build a transportation system that doesn’t just let a growing population travel – but lets them travel SAFER than ever?

How do we make our infrastructure more resilient for a time when weather events like Hurricane Sandy will occur with increasing frequency?

How can we invest the trillions of dollars our transportation needs in the smartest way possible?

These are the questions the US DOT wants us to tackle. So how can advances in robotics, research, and automation help us overcome the dramatic challenges the American transportation network is facing and change the future transportation?

Be a part of this important conversation and share your ideas at www.dot.gov/beyondtraffic.

More about Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices
Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices is structured in three parts. The first part discusses the major trends shaping our changing transportation system. The second part discusses the implications of these trends for each mode of transportation: highways, transit, pedestrian and bicycle, aviation, intercity and freight rail, maritime and pipeline. The third part presents a description of a possible future scenario based on the trends analyzed in the previous section.

5 Ways American Public Works Association Impacts Your Community

Have you ever thought about the enormous impact public works professionals have on our modern society?

Think about it. These are the individuals and companies responsible for planning, designing, building, operating and maintaining the transportation, water supply, storm drainage, sewage and refuse disposal systems, public buildings, and other structures and facilities essential to our nation’s economy and quality of life.

Organizations like The American Public Works Association enable public works professionals and companies (like us) with access to the latest technologies and resources to better serve our industry. 

What is public works? APWA defines it as “the combination of physical assets, management practices, policies, and personnel necessary for government to provide and sustain structures and services essential to the welfare and acceptable quality of life for its citizens”.

APWA serves our industry in countless capacities; here are just 5 ways they impact communities on a local and national level:

1. APWA enables it’s members (made up of 29,000+ public works professionals) to bring important public works-related topics to public attention in local, state and federal arenas.

2. The organization educates the public on trends and emerging issues through their nationally sponsored educational programs, industry publications, professional development, training activities

3. The APWA Center for Sustainability now serves our industry as a primary resource on sustainability and sustainable practices for public works organizations across the United States and Canada.

4. APWA facilitates a forum for public works professionals to improve the performance of their agencies and companies, to discuss management techniques for everything from emergency management and water resources to transportation to fleet services and winter maintenance.

5. APWA members advocate for increased investment in public works and contribute their expertise to policy debates that significantly impact public works and our communities.

It is partnerships like the one we have with APWA that have allowed WVCO to emerge as a leader in our industry for decades.  For more information on APWA and how they serve their members, please visit the website at: www.apwa.net or “Like” them on Facebook.

Photo Source: American Public Works on Facebook

NACE International Helps to Lead the Way to More Corrosion Control Solutions and Resources

Photo Source: NACE International on Facebook

Transportation and infrastructure companies faces a number of serious challenges; corrosion being among the biggest.  Corrosion can cause dangerous and expensive damage to everything from vehicles, home appliances, and water and wastewater systems to pipelines, bridges, and public buildings.

Our mission is to better serve our industry by finding solutions to challenges like corrosion, and the valuable partnerships we have with organizations such as NACE International, allows us to do so.

NACE International is the leader in the corrosion engineering and science community. The organization has served the high-performance coatings industry by developing corrosion prevention and control standards for many decades.  The group was originally founded by corrosion engineers in the pipeline industry back in 1943.  Back then, it was known as  “The National Association of Corrosion Engineers”.  Today, they are recognized as the largest organization in the world committed to the study of corrosion.

The organization strives to enrich their members by providing helpful training resources and access to the latest information on products, services, tips, and techniques in their publications like Materials Performance (MP), CoatingsPro Magazine, CorrDefense, NACE Corrosion Press, InspectThis! and StayCurrent.

To learn more about NACE International and their commitment to corrosion control solutions, please visit them www.nace.org

Articles cited in this post: Corrosion – A Natural but Controllable Process By Gretchen A. Jacobson – Materials Performance Managing Editor