In September, more than 300 civil engineers and industry experts from across Texas and beyond gathered in San Marcos for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – Texas Section’s flagship annual conference – the Texas Civil Engineering Conference or CECON. This 3-day event, organized by dedicated volunteers, is the place for engineers to engage in professional development, build business relationships, and engage in peer-to-peer technical exchange. It was great for everyone to meet for the conference in-person after a year and a half of being away due to the pandemic, which caused CECON 2020 to be held in a virtual format.
Held at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Hotel & Conference Center, CECON 2021 provided a way for design consultants, contractors, manufacturers, agencies, students, and other professionals to discuss current infrastructure issues and lessons learned from the challenges faced by all engineers, especially those focused on sustainability and resiliency.
“CECON is the best conference a Civil Engineer can attend in Texas” said Sean Merrell, PE, PTOE, Past President, Texas Section. “It is great on so many levels…technical, professional, social,” he continued. “My hope is that more Civil Engineers take advantage of such a great opportunity to get their PDHs, increase their knowledge on so many subjects, and have a great time doing it with friends and fellow engineers.”
On behalf of the ASCE Texas CECON Planning Committee, we would like to extend a special ‘Thank You’ to CECON Partner Sponsor: Texas Concrete Pipe Association (TCPA). View all the CECON 2021 supporting sponsors and exhibitors here.
LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS OF SUSTAINABILITY
The 2021 theme, “Laying the Foundations of Sustainability,” focuses on the challenge of technical, social, and economic systems successfully interacting with ecological systems. This is a collaborative and collective process shared by all levels across all disciplines of civil engineering: planning, design, management, implementation, business, and community. Laying the foundations of sustainability begins with evaluating the past, examining the breakdown of current conditions, recognizing known issues, embracing adversity and planning with the opportunity for investment for the future. Educating engineers on the importance of their individual impacts is essential and the CECON 2021 program breakout speaker topics encouraged this mindset across all engineers for the future, today.
CECON 2021 kicked off its Wednesday opening ceremony with Texas State University’s ROTC presenting the colors before a welcome keynote presentation by ASCE 2021 President Jean-Louis Briaud PhD, PE, D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE in tandem with ASCE Texas Section 2021 President Sean Merrell PE, RAS, POTE, F.ASCE. As part of the opening ceremony, each attendee received a CECON 2021 commemorative coffee mug, something they were able to use throughout the conference and take home.
UNIQUE CONFERENCE OFFERINGS
Following the opening ceremony, attendees had the opportunity to attend 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 to be worn as a reminder of their commitment to ethics and professionalism. CECON 2021 Senior Planning Committee Co-Chair Jennifer Bohlander PE, M.ASCE (HNTB Corporation) presented eligible participants with their rings while ASCE 2020 President K.N. Gunalan PhD, PE, F.ASCE, D.GE (Past President of ASCE Global and Senior VP Transportation Alternative Deliver Americas, AECOM) moderated.
The first keynote of the conference was a Virtual Tour of the $1.6B Bois d’Arc Lake Program by Steve Long PE (Freese and Nichols, Inc.) and early afternoon held breakout sessions as well as a new panel to CECON: AGC-ASCE. Panelists included Steven Albright (Director of Government Affairs, AGC Texas), Brian Manning PE (CEO, Mc2 Civil, Inc) and Matthew Paggioli PE (Director of Contract Management, Webber, LLC). Late afternoon culminated in an interactive TxDOT Divisions Town Hall. Panelists included Ryan Barborak PE (TxDOT Materials and Tests Division), Roger Beall (Deputy Director at TPP Division), Jason Duncan PE (Construction Division), Susan Fraser PE, CFM (Mobility 35 Project Manager) and Geir-Eilif Kalhagen (Director of Maritime Division). Sean Merrell PE, RAS, POTE, F.ASCE served as moderator and delegated questions from the audience to the panelists for an intriguing, multi-faceted and informative discussion about the future of TxDOT.
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.
Thursday morning began with an Engineering Ethics presentation, “Developing Your Moral (or is it “Ethical”?) Vocabulary,” featuring returning presenter Carlos Bertha PhD, M.ASCE (Professor of Philosophy, United States Air Force Academy). The presentation discussed the differences between “ethical” and “moral”, “bribe” from “extortion”, what “standard of care” means as well as other vocabulary associated with moral choices that engineers face during their careers.
The remainder of the morning was packed with breakout sessions covering a vast array of topics including the City of Missouri City Drainage Watershed Master Plan Update by Shashi Kumar & Jeremy Davis and The Future of Engineering – 2021 to 2061: What Will Change and What Will Remain the Same by Gowen Dishman PE (HNTB Corporation).
Following the Thursday morning portion of the program, attendees made their way to the luncheon keynote, Houston Takes Action: Sustainability & Resiliency Planning presented by Carol Haddock, PE (Houston Public Works Director and Former Member of ASCE Board of Direction). She gave an intriguing discussion about resilience and mitigation efforts, planning for climate impacts, electric vehicles and creating a strong foundation for Houston to thrive through Houston Public Works.
The afternoon’s ASCE Region 6 Assembly was highlighted by “Sustainability and Resilience in Transportation,” featuring Kirk D. Fauver (Texas)(Planning & Research Engineer, FHWA – Texas Division), David D. Quintana PE (New Mexico)(Chief Engineer, New Mexico Department of Transportation), Kensey W. Russell PE, ASCE Region 6 Governor (Oklahoma)(HNTB Corporation) and moderated by Jerry B. Paz PE, ASCE Region 6 Director (Molzen Corbin).
Attendees enjoyed an afternoon networking break with exhibitors before more breakout sessions resumed followed by the Texas Legislative Panel discussion led by the ASCE Texas Section’s Government Affairs Committee. ASCE 2021 President Jean-Louis Briaud PhD, PE, D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE moderated the interactive discussion featuring Texas Representative Dennis Paul PE (District 129), Texas Representative J.M. Lozano (District 43), Texas Representative Alex Dominguez (District 37) and Texas Senator Kel Seliger (District 31).
AWARDS BANQUET HONORS OUTSTANDING CIVIL ENGINEERING PROJECTS & LEADERS
Thursday concluded with the eagerly anticipated Earth, Wind, Water and Fire-themed gala and awards banquet. Attendees came out to celebrate 2021 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 paper airplane contests, take home seed packets, sustainable crafts, live painting, and even fire throwers on the back patio!
ASCE 2021 President Jean-Louis Briaud PhD, PE, D.GE, Dist.M.ASCE and ASCE Texas Section 2021 President Sean Merrell PE, RAS, POTE, F.ASCE emceed the Awards Ceremony, honoring the following award recipients:
- Award of Honor: LeAnne Napolillo PE, F.ASCE
- Service to People Award: Judge Eloy Vera PE
- Service to People Award: Joe W. Alvarez
- Professional Service Award: Jonathan Brower PE
- Professional Service to Students Award: Heather Guillen PE, ENV SP
- Government Civil Engineer Award: Mark A. Bouma PE
- John A. Focht, Jr. Citizen Engineer Award: Robert S. Patton PE, D.GE (Ret), F.ASCE
- President’s Special Recognition Award: Beyond Storms Infrastructure Network Resilience Task Committee led by Geoff Roberts
- Texas OCEA Award: Able Pump Station (City of Dallas Water Utilities and HDR Engineering)
- Texas OCEA Award of Merit: Mansfield Road Improvements Project (City of Cedar Hill, Jacobs, Dallas County, Tiseo Paving)
The third and final day of CECON 2021 kicked off on a high note with a morning packed full of well attended breakout sessions and another new panel to CECON: A Discussion on Design Build Projects in America featuring Chitra Foster PE, DBIA, ENV SP (Senior Project Manager, Burns & McDonnell), K.N. Gunalan PhD, PE, F.ASCE, D.GE (Past President of ASCE Global and Senior VP Transportation Alternative Deliver Americas, AECOM), Marlea Tichy PMP (Vice President of Business Development, Kiewit), moderated by Robert Stevens PhD, PE, F.ASCE (Texas Section VP Technical, Past President of ASCE Global, Executive VP at Arcadis U.S., Inc.)
The combined ASCE Texas Section Business Meeting and Luncheon on the State of Our Community Address was presented by ASCE & Texas Section Leaders including Lindsay O’Leary (ASCE Texas Section Executive Director), Sean Merrell PE, RAS, POTE, F.ASCE (ASCE Texas Section President 2021), K.N. Gunalan PhD, PE, F.ASCE, D.GE (Past President of ASCE Global and Senior VP Transportation Alternative Deliver Americas, AECOM) and Patrick Beecher PE (ASCE Texas Section President 2022).
The final keynote of the conference was a panel discussion on the 2021 Texas Infrastructure Report Card released this year, Raising the Grades for Infrastructure at Risk. Panelists included Kathleen Jackson PE (Texas Water Development Board – TWDB, Board Member), Kevin Ward (Trinity River Authority, General Manager and Member of ASCE Industry Leaders Council), Warrant Samuelson PE (TCEQ, Dam Safety Section, Manager) and moderated by Susan K. Roth PE, PMP (ASCE Texas Section Past President). The panelists focused how to raise the grade for the categories most at risk: dams, levees, and wastewater.
A technical tour of Texas State University Ingram School of Engineering concluded the conference. Attendees enjoyed the opportunity to see the interworking of the facilities’ offerings for engineering students.
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 2022: “A Unified Community”. We look forward to seeing you in a new location – Frisco, Texas, September 14-16, 2022!
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Save the Date for #CECON2022: A #UnifiedCommunity | September 14-16 | Frisco, TX