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Highlights from Texas CECON 2022 — A Conference for a Community of Civil Engineers

CECON

Highlights from Texas CECON 2022 — A Conference for a Community of Civil Engineers

By Andrew J. Domke PE (Balcones Geotechnical)
CECON 2022 Senior Planning Committee Co-Chair

November 2022

This September in Frisco, Texas, over 400 members of the civil engineering community gathered to celebrate 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.

This year CECON partnered with two ASCE Texas Institutes Chapters, the Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute (TxUESI) and the Geotechnical Institute (TxGI), to have dedicated professional development tracks for their members and those specialties. One attendee’s feedback was a great summary of the general attendee consensus for the event: “the location in Frisco was great. It was a convenient venue with great access to the exhibitor hall and rooms for presentations. Good to combine ASCE, Geo-Institute and UESI.”

Held at the Embassy Suites Dallas Frisco Hotel and Convention Center, CECON 2022 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 latest emerging and hot topics.

Another attendee had the following comment on the event, “I really enjoyed CECON again this year. The Planning Committee once again did a wonderful job in planning for both the technical sessions and networking events. I thought the Frisco venue to be equally as successful as the San Marcos venue, and I enjoyed the change of scenery. Keep up the great work and thank you for all that you do to plan this awesome event.” On behalf of the Planning Committee, Thank You all for attending and being part of our ASCE unified community.

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 first time CECON Social Sponsor: Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI). Your support of our community and profession is appreciated and invaluable to our success.  

A Unified Community

The 2022 theme, “A Unified Community”, was selected to highlight our similarities as professionals but celebrate our uniqueness as engineers with different specialties. Just as members of a community gather to work, celebrate, and exchange information, the attendees of CECON had similar experience throughout the conference. Civil engineers from each discipline of the industry (water resources and hydraulics, environmental, construction, structural, geotechnical, transportation, utility, survey, and city planning and municipal engineer) were all represented at the event and shared their experiences and lessons learned.

The CECON 2022 opening ceremony was held at the Embassy Suites Convention Center and began with the National Anthem performed by 11-year-old Kendyl Johnson. Following the anthem, the Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney, welcomed attendees to Frisco and provided the crowd with an update on the happenings in Frisco. A special Keynote was then provided by Aubrey Smading PE, Senior Regulatory Affairs Specialist, ICON Technology). ICON has developed an industrial size state-of-the-art 3D printer capable of constructing homes and other types of buildings for families, commercial industries, and the military. Ms. Smading was kind enough to breakdown their efforts to address the national housing crisis through their service line.

To close out the Opening Ceremony, seven attendees participated in the Order of the Engineer ring ceremony. The ceremony bridges the gap between training and experience and presents a visible symbol to the public identifying the engineer – a steel ring worn on the small finger of the working hand. Participants took the Obligation of the Engineer and received a ring. Those that wear the ring will always remember their oath and their dedication to ethics and professionalism. We thank those who participated in the 2022 ceremony. The future is bright.

UNIQUE CONFERENCE OFFERINGS

The second keynote of the conference was an Update from TxDOT by Brandye Hendrickson, Deputy Executive Director for Planning and Administration of TxDOT, which left attendees with a passion and optimism for the rest of the conference.

The rest of the afternoon held breakout sessions, which included the specialty tracks curated by the members of the two partner ASCE Texas Institute Chapters, TxGI and TxUESI. Late afternoon educational offerings culminated in a TxDOT Leaders Panel and another set of breakout sessions. Panelists included Michael D. Bryant (Civil Right Division Director), Chad Coburn (Rail Division), Brandye Hendrickson (Deputy Executive Director for Planning and Administration), and Brenan Honey PE (Dallas District Director of Construction). ASCE Section Past President (2021) Sean Merrell PE, RAS, POTE, F.ASCE served as moderator for this informative discussion about the current, past, and future of TxDOT.

Wednesday evening, attendees were treated with a relaxing “Community in the Park” social at the Frisco RoughRiders Field, sponsored by Plastics Pipe Institute (PPI).  Attendees and families joined in the activities, including batting practices, fielding balls, walking the concourse, yard games, and simply enjoying the perfect weather with a Texas BBQ feast. This evening was a highlight for many conference goers and their families.

Thursday morning began with an Engineering Ethics presentation, “Ethics Jeopardy” hosted by Andrew Hunt PE (Senior Vice President of Project Control of Texas). His presentation is regarded as the least boring Engineering Ethics hour of your life. Attendees were informed and entertained as they covered the exciting topic of Engineering Ethics through the game of Jeopardy! The hour-long ethics session included lively group discussions with those present while covering the following topics: The Engineering Seal; Bids, Marketing, and Politics; Test Licensure; Professional Conduct; and Moral Dilemmas.

The remainder of the morning was packed with breakout sessions covering a vast array of topics including Leadership and Engineering presented by Christopher Steubing PE, CFM (City of Sugar Land), Dallas to Fort Worth: High-Speed Transportation Connections Study presented by Brendon Wheeler PE, CFM (North Central Texas Council of Governments) and Ian Bryant, AICP (HNTB), and the nationally presented, History of Case Studies of the ASCE Code of Ethics presented by ASCE Texas Section History & Heritage Committee Chair Melinda Luna PE, CFM, F ASCE (TRC Engineers).

After productive intermission networking breaks, attendees enjoyed two interactive discussion panels. First, the Texas Legislative Panel discussion moderated by ASCE Texas Section Government Affairs Committee Co-Chair Michael Bloom PE (5engineering) and featured an interactive discussion with Texas Representative Dennis Paul PE (District 129 and member of the House Committee on Natural Resources) and Frisco local, Texas Senator Royce West (District 23 and member of the Senate Committee on Transportation). Next was a new, and much anticipated, offering, a Texas Directors of Public Works Panel, which included moderator and panelist ASCE Texas Section President-Elect (2022) Travis Attanasio PE (City of Burleson), Robert Valenzuela PE (City of Sugar Land), Paul Knippel PE (City of Frisco), and Kent Collins PE (City of Coppell).

The remainder of the afternoon offered attendees more technical continuing education, followed by a Happy Hour with Exhibitors and motivational Keynote address. Also a CECON first, the 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 an inspiring Keynote message from Clint Bruce, Former NFL Football Player and Navy SEAL (Team Never Quit).

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 2022 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 2021 President Jean-Louis Briaud PhD, PE, D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE, ASCE Texas Section Past President (2019) Art Clendenin PE, and ASCE Texas Section 2022 President Patrick Beecher PE emceed the Awards Ceremony, honoring the following award recipients:

SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION

The third and final day of CECON 2022 kicked off on a high note with a morning packed full of well attended breakout sessions, continuing to include specialty tracks by the ASCE Texas Geotechnical Institute and ASCE Texas Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute. Friday’s sessions included technical and industry best practice topics like Local and Statewide Development Partnerships: Moving People Forward presented by Ram Maddali PE, AICP, PMP, Akila Thamizharasan PE, PMP and Marty Boyd CNU-A, ASCE 75-22 -Review of the New Standard Guideline presented by Jesse Cooper RPLS and Dan Colby, and the Texas Civil Engineering Foundation (TCEF) fellowship recipient, “Pond-in-Pond (PIP): An upgraded pond design towards water sustainability“ presented by Luis Carlos Soares da Silva Junior, M.SC. (Doctoral Candidate, Texas Tech University).

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), Patrick Beecher PE (ASCE Texas Section President 2022), Jerry Paz PE, ENV SP (ASCE Region 6 Director 2020-2023) and Travis Attanasio PE, PMP (ASCE Texas Section President 2023).

The final Keynote of the conference was a panel discussion on the report in response to the 2021 Winter Storms Uri and Viola, Reliability & Resilience in the Balance: After the Report, Lessons Learned from Winter Storm 2021 and Beyond featuring ASCE Texas Section Beyond Storms Infrastructure Network Resilience (INR) Task Committee members: Mark Boyd PhD, PE, DWRE, CAPM (2022 ASCE Texas Section VP Technical Elect), Geoff Roberts (ASCE Texas Section Beyond Storms INR Committee Chair), and Oliver E. Smith (ASCE Texas Section Beyond Storms INR Committee Network Sector Lead).  The panelists focused on recommendations to help ensure that Reliability and Resilience are prioritized, appropriately funded, and supported on an ongoing basis.

A guided tour of the Dallas Cowboys practice facility, “The Star”, concluded the conference. Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to explore this unique facility, that is more than just a place to practice, attendees enjoyed a football museum and Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters.  

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!

LOOKING FORWARD 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 2023: “The Future is Now”. We look forward to seeing you in San Marcos, Texas, September 20-22, 2023!