Highlights from Texas CECON 2019
In September, more than 350 civil engineers and industry experts from across Texas met in San Marcos for the Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ flagship annual conference, the Texas Civil Engineering Conference (CECON 2019). This 3-day event, organized in partnership with the Texas Concrete Pipe Association (TCPA) by dedicated volunteers, is the place for civil engineers to engage in professional development, build business relationships, and engage in peer-to-peer technical exchange.
Held at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Hotel, Spa, and Convention Center, CECON 2019 provided a way for design consultants, contractors, manufacturers, agencies, students and other professionals to gather and discuss current infrastructure issues, lessons learned in the wake of natural disasters, and the challenges faced by all engineers to proactively design, improve, and build infrastructure that accommodates a growing Texas population.
LEADERSHIP BY DESIGN: BUILDING A LEGACY
The 2019 theme, “Leadership by Design: Building a Legacy” generated many presentation topics and discussions that define leadership in the civil engineering profession, with a focus on the following:
- making decisions today that are catalysts for a better future,
- engaging people and challenging them to inspire future leaders,
- tasking senior professionals to give back to the profession through mentoring, and
- making it clear that those leaders who motivate others in their community will enable Texas civil engineers to build a better quality of life across the street and around the world.
CECON 2019 kicked off its Wednesday opening ceremony with a welcome and challenge to “Embrace Change” from ASCE President, Robin A. Kemper PE, LEED AP, ENV SP, F.SEI, F.ASCE. As part of the opening ceremony, each attendee received a CECON 2019 commemorative coffee mug, something they were able to use throughout the conference and take home.
Following the opening ceremony, author, Robert J. Darling, Lt. Col. USMC (Ret.), delivered the luncheon keynote, “24 Hours in the President’s Bunker: Crisis, Leadership, & Decision Making on 9/11/2001.” The room was quiet and focused as Darling talked attendees through the events of 9/11 from the perspective of where all the decisions were made. CECON attendees were captivated by Darling’s story, with one attendee saying,
Getting Lt. Col. Robert Darling to speak during the Wednesday lunch was great. Most insightful and motivating speaker I’ve ever heard at CECON or any other engineering conference.
UNIQUE CONFERENCE OFFERINGS
Wednesday evening spotlighted the TCPA’s Annual Barbecue Dinner hosted at Wonder World Cave & Adventure Park. Attendees, guests and families all joined in the festivities, celebrating the annual gathering of civil engineers from across Texas. This entertaining and relaxing evening was a highlight for many conference goers, and attendees particularly enjoyed going on guided cave tours and learning interesting Texas history at the unique venue.
The next day kicked off with an ethics breakfast. Dr. Carlos Bertha, Professor of Philosophy at the US Air Force Academy, returned from last year with a new edition of “Engineering Ethics: Real World Case Studies.” The engaging presentation provided a fresh view on ethics and a better understanding of the moral theories that today’s ethics codes are based upon.
Following the ethics breakfast, attendees had the opportunity to attend something new to CECON: 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 to be worn as a reminder of their commitment to ethics and professionalism. ASCE President Robin A. Kemper PE, LEED AP, ENV SP, F.SEI, F.ASCE presented eligible participants with their rings while ASCE Region 6 Director Nancy Cline PE moderated.
After the ring ceremony, CECON 2019 attendees made their way to the Lightning Rounds and Poster Presentation sessions, which boasted packed rooms with highly engaged audiences. Conference goers enjoyed the opportunity to evaluate each presentation and vote for their favorite using the conference app. This year’s Lightning Round winners were Max Layne PE, for his “Utility Protection” presentation, and Natalie Weiershausen PE, ENV SP, for her presentation, “Turning Grey Infrastructure Green, A Worthwhile Investment.”
Following the Thursday morning portion of the program, attendees made their way to the luncheon keynote, “Wildfire Impacts on Historical Bastrop State Park: Recovery and Future Preparedness”, addressed by Kari Hines of Texas A&M Forest Service. Following Hines’ keynote, community leaders led a panel discussion, “2011 Bastrop Wildfires: Widespread Impact First-Hand Accounts & Lessons Learned.” The panel shared personal perspectives on the widespread impacts the wildfire had on the residents, basic infrastructure, and the financial impacts of recovery.
Attendees enjoyed an afternoon networking break with exhibitors before more breakout sessions resumed. “Texas Central High-Speed Rail Project Update” presented by Nancy Cline PE, Stakeholder Manger for Texas Central, and organized by the Texas Chapter of ASCE’s Transportation and Development Institute (T&DI) was extremely well attended. Cline walked attendees through the project layout, challenges, innovations, and kindly spent time answering questions from the audience.
ASCE Texas Section’s Government Affairs Committee hosted a legislative panel discussion to reflect on the State of Texas’ 86th Legislative Session. The all-female panel included Texas Representative Erin Zwiener (District 45), Texas Representative Celia Israel (District 50), Kathleen Jackson PE (Board Member, Texas Water Development Board) and Ida Musgrove (Deputy Director, City of Austin – Intergovernmental Relations). The panel discussed issues related to aging infrastructure, the importance of resiliency, and recent efforts to roll-back the requirements of professional licensure.
AWARDS BANQUET HONORS OUTSTANDING CIVIL ENGINEERING PROJECTS & LEADERS
Thursday concluded with the eagerly anticipated Casino Royale-themed gala and awards banquet. High rollers came out to celebrate 2019 ASCE Texas Section award recipients for achieving excellence in the field. Planned by the ASCE Texas Section Younger Member Committee, this year’s gala was decked out with casino tables, photo booth, live painting, and a delicious surf and turf spread.
Guests came dressed in their best casino attire, including cocktail dresses and suits, with some members even taking a creative “Miami Vice” approach the theme attire.
Jonathan Brower PE, Second Year Director at Large on the ASCE Texas Section Board of Direction, emceed the Awards Ceremony, honoring the following award recipients:
- Award of Honor: Carol E. Haddock PE (Houston Branch)
- Government Civil Engineer Award: Martha F. Juch PE (Austin Branch)
- History & Heritage Award: ASCE Dallas Branch
- John A. Focht, Jr. Citizen Engineer Award: Julie A. Jones PE (Dallas Branch)
- Professional Service Award
- Mark K. Boyd PhD, PE (Dallas Branch)
- Kacey C. Paul PE (Austin Branch)
- Anthony D. Luce PE (Dallas Branch)
- Professional Service to Students Award
- David K. Harkins PhD, PE (Austin Branch)
- Jennifer L. Smith PE (Dallas Branch)
- Service to People Award
- Griselda Gonzales PE (Houston Branch)
- Jearl P. Morris PE (Fort Worth Branch)
- Presidents Special Recognition Award: Elizabeth Greenwood
- Texas Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement (OCEA) Award: Wichita Falls Direct Potable Reuse & Indirect Potable Reuse Project
The following entities and individuals are recognized for their contributions to the award-winning project:
- City of
Wichita Falls – Daniel K. Nix & Russell J. Schreiber PE
- Biggs & Mathews, Inc.– Kerry D. Maroney PE
- CDM Smith – Chad D. Bartruff PE, Susan Crawford PE, Samir Mathur PE, & Tina Petersen PE
- Corlett, Probst & Boyd, LLP – T. Dean Hinton PE
Following the awards ceremony, attendees put on their best poker faces and tried their luck at professionally managed casino game tables including Texas Hold’em, Blackjack, Craps, and Roulette. Each attendee was given a ticket to cash-in for chips that could be used to play games and enter raffle drawings.
View all photos from the Casino Royale Gala and Section Awards Ceremony here.
SOLVING PROBLEMS ON THE SPOT
On the third and final day of CECON, the program continued with many interesting breakout sessions, an unexpected luncheon keynote, and an off-site technical tour. Attendees also had the option of attending mini-breakout sessions, exposing them to a variety of both technical topics and power skills in a short period of time.
The combined luncheon keynote and ASCE Texas Section Business Meeting, featuring Carol Haddock PE, Director of Houston Public Works was unplanned yet incredibly well received. Haddock stepped in on behalf of Clarence Wittwer, Director of Public Works, City of Pearland, who was originally scheduled to speak but was unable to travel due to severe flooding caused by Tropical Depression Imelda.
A technical tour of Amazon’s San Marcos Distribution Facility concluded the conference. Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to see the interworking of the e-commerce giant.
ASCE Texas Section’s CECON Planning Committee strives to makes each year better than the last. The Committee has already begun planning CECON 2020, themed “Engineering 2020: Envisioning the Future, Today.” They hope to see everyone back in San Marcos on September 23-25, 2020!