On April 20th, the ASCE Oregon Section hosted an evening of entertainment with appetizers, a panel of industry pioneers and a screening of the IMAX Engineering Film “Dream Big”. The event was held at OMSI and was attended by students, young professionals and engineers from a variety of disciplines. The social hour, co-sponsored by ASCE, KPFF, and SEAO, included a variety of delicious appetizers and presented a great opportunity for engineers from diverse backgrounds to meet our panelists.
The panelists varied in experience from student to seasoned professional. They shared their engineering journey, cutting edge project experience, biggest challenges and fascinating connection to the achievements highlighted in the film. Each individual was engaging and passionate about the future of engineering.
Ralph Salamie is a manager at one of the world’s premier bridge construction companies. He has worked on many of the longest and most complex bridges in the U.S. He shared how his background in bridge building was directly applicable to the valuable work that Bridges to Prosperity is doing in communities around the world. He has worked on 5 projects with them and mentioned that the experience has taught him how to get creative when you don’t have access to heavy equipment. The key to success is being flexible and figuring out how to improvise. When asked what quality he looks for in employees, he responded that having a good work ethic is at the top of his list.
Gray Johnson, our youngest panelist, shared the fascinating journey of the Oregon State University Solar Powered Car design team. Their latest car is called the “Phoenix” because it arose from the ashes of their previous vehicle which was destroyed by fire a few years ago. When Gray was asked about the biggest challenge his team has encountered, he explained how difficult it is for a group of students on a shoestring budget to design an entire car. He is in the process of designing the shocks for the vehicle which has a steep learning curve but is rewarding work.
Evan Thomas has a passion for providing clean water and air in developing communities. His team hasprovided water filters to over 100,000 households in Rwanda and cook stoves to 1.6 million people. These cook stoves improve air quality, the health of individuals and the efficiency of the stoves reduce the need for firewood. When asked about what he has learned from his work abroad, he highlighted that Rwanda has over 98% cell coverage and is ahead of the curve in mobile banking. He explained that we could learn a lot from these communities and all that they have accomplished in spite of obstacles. Evan is also a finalist in the Canadian astronaut program and shared some photos from the testing program. A few of the tests involved walking through fire and being dropped out of a plane.
“Dream Big” played, following the panelists presentations and an audience Q and A. The film highlighted the International space station which has components designed by Evan. It showcased Bridges to Prosperity and the World Solar Challenge which highlighted the bridges and cars designed by Ralph and Gray, respectively. The audience learned that sticky rice was used between layers of brick in The Great Wall of China and the underdog at a robotics competition can sometimes beat MIT! The greatest take-away from the movie was that engineers don’t just design cool projects, they improve the lives of people around the world.