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A Place in the Narrative of Structural Engineering

Friday, May 4, 2018

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The SEI conference was a life-changing experience. I am excited to call myself a future structural engineer. The keynote speakers made the big picture of our profession come alive. Ashraf Habibullah made me consider the significance I can have if I recognize the importance my impact on making other people's lives better, not only as a structural engineer but as a human-being. He mentioned that only 15% of engineering is technical and the other 85% is human-based engineering more precisely interpersonal relationships. I did not realize the level of human interaction involved in civil engineering to become a successful engineer. Now recognizing that my connecting with people brings me great joy, I find that my opportunities to impact this world as an engineer and a human are endless--the sky is the limit. 

In the case of the first keynote speakers Guillermo Trotti and Dr. Dava Newman, the sky is not the limit. Their speech bought my vision of structural engineering beyond Earth; there is much more out in space for us as humans to explore. They talked about the different structural design advances in space exploration such as the International Space Station (ISS) and the Juno Spacecraft. Then they spoke about the future of structures on the surface of the moon and Mars. I found it intriguing to know that I could work on structures that could function as a habitat for humans on the moon or Mars. 

In addition to the keynote speakers, the technical sessions were very informative of what is currently happening in the structural engineering profession. I attended the "ASCE 7-22: What's next for the Design Loads Standard?" session and it was fascinating to the development of the codes and standards that structural engineering professions follow throughout the nation. I learned about the history of ASCE 7 how it was borrowed information from other codes and developed how it became the governing code over time. The ASCE 7 committee described the constitutes, and it comprises of structural engineers, contractors, land developers, policy makers, academia, and the members of the general public. The committee wishes to reach a balance of interest for the best possible solutions in structural design for the public. Now, in 2018, the committee is wanting to modify ASCE 7 for the sake of simplifying access to the code to design structures, however making modifications to the standard takes quite a bit of time to get approved. The problem the committee found was that the standard attempts to provide a safe, reliable, and economical guide that could accommodate design professions. The issue though is that the standard can only cater to two of the three objectives without affecting the other goals. The committee wanted to take time in the meeting to survey the people attending the session to get an opinion about the proposed solution to assist with accessibility. I got the opportunity to participate in the conversion of the standard that I will use for the next years to come! I find that I have my opinion voiced that I could change the code for the better for upcoming engineers like myself. Because I have digital copies a significant portion of the textbooks I have in class and I find it economically friendly to have an online version of ASCE 7 to save the use of paper. This experience was worthwhile because I felt like I was making a difference for not just myself but for the future structural engineers like myself. I will advocate for other students to get involved because they too can have their voices if they find something we do as structural engineers that are outdated or needed for reform. 

In summary, I had a positive experience from attending Structures Congress. I met a ton of professionals and students that are passionate about the field of structural engineering and the impacts we can make on the future of this world and space. I am going to continue to be involved with SEI and work on starting a graduate student chapter here at the University of Oklahoma. Lastly, I want to thank the people of the Future Fund Board and the generous donations that made this experience possible for me. 

Skylar Calhoun, EI, S.M.ASCE
One of 10 inaugural SEI Student Scholarship recipients for Structures Congress 2018, made possible by the SEI Futures Fund and generous donors

Future student scholarship opportunities will be announced in September.