Highlights from Texas CECON 2023 — A Conference for the Future of our Industry
By John N. Mudd, PE (HR Green), CECON 2023 Senior Planning Committee Co-Chair
This September in San Marcos, almost 500 members of the civil engineering community gathered to celebrate the future of civil engineering at the Texas Civil Engineering Conference (CECON). The 3-day event, organized by dedicated volunteers and ASCE Texas staff members, is the place for engineers to engage in professional development, build business relationships, and engage in peer-to-peer technical exchange.
Roughly 10 years ago, several Texas Section Leaders had a vision when first starting this whole CECON Conference. That vision was to provide a conference that covered the breadth and depth of Civil Engineering. I am excited to say that 10 years later, we achieved that goal as we partnered with four ASCE Texas Institutes Chapters, the Geotechnical Institute (TxGI), the Structural Institute (TxSI), the Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI) and the Environmental & Water Resources Institute (EWRI). CECON was able to structure a program for professional development tracks for their members and those specialties.
Held at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Hotel and Convention Center, CECON 2023 provided a way for design consultants, contractors, manufacturers, agencies, students, and other professionals to relax, catch up with their peers and colleagues, brush up on their technical knowledge, and gain essential knowledge on the future of our industry.
An attendee had the following comment on the event, “I have been attending CECON for the past several years, and I must say that this year, your team managed to push past any and all expectations on the programming content, exhibitors, and speakers. I am excited to see how you top it next year!” On behalf of the Planning Committee, Thank You all for attending and for helping to push our industry forward into the future.
On behalf of the ASCE Texas CECON Planning Committee, we would like to thank all our event supporters, sponsors, industry partners, and exhibitors. As well as extend a special Thank You to the CECON Social Sponsor: Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI), Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS), TDR Pipe, and Lane Enterprises. Your support of our community and profession is appreciated and invaluable to our success.
The Future is Now
The 2023 theme, “The Future is Now”, was selected to highlight two different ideologies. First, to celebrate just how far we have come as an industry with regards to technology and innovation. Secondly, to help start the conversation on how we can engage the future Civil Engineers from each discipline of the industry (water resources and hydraulics, environmental, construction, structural, geotechnical, transportation, utility, survey, and city planning and municipal engineering) to continue building on the foundations set by our ancient ancestors.
Ahead of the opening ceremony, the conference opened with focus time on the Exhibitors. Without these exhibitions, the conference would not be able to achieve the type of conference our team works to achieve for our community. The CECON 2023 opening ceremony began with the opening keynote speaker, Eva Lerner-Lam. Ms. Lerner-Lam is the Founder and President of Palisades Consulting Group, Inc. and brought with her, almost 46 years of experience in transportation policy, planning, operations, and standards development. It was only fitting that we started this conference by having Ms. Lerner-Lam provide a presentation on the ASCE’s Future World Vision project. To continue growing our future, this program showed us how today’s technologies are gathering real time data from the environmental, technical, and socioeconomic systems that shape our world and turning that into planning tools to help better service our communities. I encourage folks to visit www.futureworldvision.org to better understand this important initiative.
UNIQUE CONFERENCE OFFERINGS
The second keynote of the conference was a unique presentation on the Texas Department of Transportation’s I-35 NEX Central Construction Project in San Antonio, Texas. This presentation was provided by Marco Galindo, Project Delivery Supervisor for the San Antonio District of TxDOT and Francisco Palacios, Design Director for Alamo NEX Construction. The presentation provided insight into the 22 miles of elevated lanes of Interstate 35 throughout the northeast part of San Antonio and neighboring communities. A project of this size takes a team effort, and the audience was excited to hear about some of the latest technologies utilized in the construction arena that helped to make this a successful project.
The rest of the afternoon held breakout sessions, which included the specialty tracks curated by the members of the four partner ASCE Texas Institute Chapters, TxGI and TxT&DI, TxSI, and TxEWRI. Late afternoon educational offerings culminated in a TxDOT Leaders Panel and another set of breakout sessions. Panelists included Mike Arellano, PE (Deputy District Engineer TxDOT – Austin), Charles Benavidez, PE (Deputy District Engineer TxDOT – San Antonio), Martin Horst, PE (District Engineer TxDOT – Yoakum), Lance Simmons, PE (Chief Engineer – TxDOT), Stanley Swiatek, PE (District Engineer TxDOT – Waco) and Tomas Trevino, PE (District Engineer TxDOT – El Paso). ASCE President (2023) Travis Attanasio PE served as moderator for this informative discussion about the insights of what it means to lead and grow the different TxDOT Districts in Texas.
Wednesday evening, attendees were treated to a relaxing “The Future is Bright Tailgate Party” social at the Texas State University Football Stadium, sponsored by Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI), Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS), TDR Pipe, and Lane Enterprises. Attendees and families joined in the activities, including throwing around the football, and fairly intense field goal contest, good comrade, and enjoying the perfect weather with a Texas BBQ feast. This evening was a highlight for many conference goers and their families.
As with the previous day, Thursday morning began with a focus on the Exhibitors, each of whom provided unique and informative information on the products and services within our industry.
The remainder of the morning was packed with breakout sessions covering a vast array of topics including Liberty WWTP Flood Mitigation presented by Keval Satra PE (HR Green), Lift Station Consolidation on a Macro Scale presented by Marshall Preas, PE (Pape Dawson), and The Design and Utilization of Concrete Overlayspresented by Tyler Speakmon, PE (CEMEX).
After productive intermission networking breaks, attendees enjoyed two interactive discussion panels. First, the Texas Legislative Panel discussion was moderated by ASCE Texas Section Government Affairs Committee Co-Chair Michael Bloom PE (5engineering) and featured an interactive discussion with Texas Representative John Lujan (District 118 and member of the House Committee on Transportation), Sarah R. Schlessinger (CEO – Texas Water Foundation) and Commissioner Kathleen Jackson (Texas Public Utility Commission). This was a new and fresh perspective on the different viewpoints of those who write infrastructure legislature, those who implement the legislature, and those who advocate for change via the legislature. It was quite the conversation. Our second and much anticipated offering was the Texas Directors of Public Works Panel, which included Commissioner Kathleen Jackson as the moderator and panelist Carol Haddock, PE (City of Houston), Rozi Hosseini, PE, RPLS (City of San Antonio) and Shahad Mohammed PMP (City of Dallas). The panelists discussed how each of them is working to bring their cities into the future.
The remainder of the afternoon offered attendees more technical continuing education, followed by a Happy Hour with Exhibitors and a motivational Keynote address. Our second Happy Hour gave attendees a chance to network and mingle with colleagues and industry supporters in a relaxed setting before taking their seats again to listen to a fun Keynote message from Chet Garner, The Daytripper!
HONORING OUTSTANDING CIVIL ENGINEERING PROJECTS & LEADERS
Thursday concluded with the eagerly anticipated Casino Night Gala and Awards Ceremony. A packed room of attendees supported and celebrated the 2023 ASCE Texas Section annual award recipients for their outstanding achievements and excellence in the field. Planned by the ASCE Texas Section Younger Member Committee, this year’s gala had everyone feeling like winners with several casino table games to choose from and a variety of prizes as payouts!
ASCE 2022 President Travis Atanasio, PE, and ASCE Incoming Society President Elect Marisa Geldert-Murphey emceed the Awards Ceremony, honoring the following award recipients:
- Government Civil Engineer Award: Joe Alvarez
- Professional Service to Students Award: Mark Mann PE
- History & Heritage Award: Anne Cook, MLIS
- Professional Service Award: Julie Jones PE, CFM
- Service to People Award: Kathleen Jackson PE
- John A. Focht Jr. Citizen Engineer Award: Patricia Fayre PE
- Award of Honor: Augustine Verrengia III PE
- Award of Honor: Russell “Rusty” Gibson PE
- Lifetime Service Award: Bud Beene PE, F.ASCE
- Lifetime Service Award: Martha Juch PE, CFM
- Lifetime Service Award: David Matocha
- Lifetime Service Award: Tim Newton
- Lifetime Service Award: Ken Rainwater PhD, PE, CFM, D.WRE
- Texas OCEA Award: Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project (Coastal Water Authority)
- Texas OCEA Award of Merit: Runway 13R-31L & Taxiway C Phase 1 Reconstruction (City of Dallas & HNTB)
The third and final day of CECON 2023 kicked off on a high note with a morning packed full of well attended breakout sessions, continuing to include specialty tracks by our partnering Institutes. Friday’s sessions included technical and industry best practice topics like Risky Business: Providing Effective Risk Management for Civil Projects presented by Glenn Goldstein, PE (Foresight Planning & Engineering Services), Breaking Down Silos for Affordable Housing presented by Rachel Parrish, PE (City of San Antonio) and our yearly Texas Ethics Program presented by Michael Sims, PE (Texas Board of Professional Engineers).
The combined ASCE Texas Section Business Meeting and Luncheon on the “State of Our Community” was presented by ASCE & Texas Section Leaders including Jenni Peters, CAE (ASCE Texas Section Executive Director), Travis Attanasio PE (ASCE Texas Section President 2023) and Kimberly Cornett, PE (ASCE Incoming Texas Section President 2024).
What better way to bring home our theme, “The Future is Now”, by having our final Keynote of the conference, Dr. Shreek Mandayam, Vice President for Research of Texas State University, provide the conference with a look at the University’s Run to R1. This presentation gave us a look at the University’s Moody Center and Local Research initiatives that focus on the growth and future of the Engineering curriculum and research capabilities as they work towards becoming an R1 Doctoral University.
A guided tour of the House Zero by ICON concluded the conference. As a call back to our 2022 conference, Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to explore the implementation of 3D home building technology in the residential construction market.
CECON would not be possible without the countless volunteer hours invested from the dedicated CECON Planning Committee. We are grateful to everyone who participated, making their planning efforts all worthwhile!
ASCE Texas Section’s CECON Planning Committee strives to make each year better than the last, incorporating lessons learned and best practices discovered the year before. The Committee has already begun planning for CECON 2024: “Raising the Grade”. We look forward to seeing you in Frisco, Texas, September 18-20, 2024!
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