The late 1990s were a busy time for the Nebraska Section. With more than 400 Section members, the September 1998 meeting was attended by over 50 individuals. In October 1998, the Section was awarded the Bronze Engineering Management and Business Practices Award at the Annual Convention in Boston, Massachusetts. Also, the website was recently updated. The District 16 Council, of which Nebraska was a member, commented on ASCE’s recently adopted policy on the “first professional degree.” The Regional Future City Competition, sponsored by the Nebraska Section and coordinated by Kirby Woods, was picking up steam, with members helping the students participate in a nationwide “satellite feed and internet link-up” to share information and receive guidance on their projects.
In 1999, the 25 member organizations of the Engineer’s Roundtable sponsored Engineers Week displays at Oak View Mall and a supplement in the Midlands Business Journal. The Nebraska Section hosted the 11th Annual Balsa Wood Truss Competition (Truss Bustin’) at Oak View, with Bruce Harris planning the event and nine participating high schools. Section members were asked to provide an email address so they could be notified when the newsletter is on the website. RSVPs for Section meetings were handled by phone, with two Board members – one in Lincoln and one in Omaha – taking calls each month. It must have worked well – 64 attended the September 1999 meeting, and 58 were there in October.
In 2000, the Nebraska Section joined the American Council of Engineering Companies of Nebraska (ACEC Nebraska) and the Nebraska Society of Professional Engineers (NeSPE) to form the Professional Engineers Coalition (PEC). As noted in President Joe Waxse’s newsletter column, “the intent of the Coalition is to unite the efforts, resources and influence of professional engineering organizations in the state so as to carry an effective voice to the Unicameral.” Each member organization had two representatives on PEC, and in March, Gordon Kissel was hired as lobbyist. By the fall of 2000, Section members were hearing about Design-Build legislation through PEC.
The first known event hosted by a Younger Member Committee (Chaired by Ryan Paradis) was an April 2000 site visit of the First National Bank Tower construction site. It must have been interesting, as the Younger Members went back in October to see the progress.
Around the turn of the millennium, the Nebraska Section was concerned about the budget. Pleas were made to pay Section dues – all of $7.50. In an attempt to save money, the Section experimented with an electronic-only newsletter and considered raising dues. At the 2001 Annual Meeting, members voted to raise dues to $15. In the same time frame, the Society eliminated dues for Student Chapter members.
In the fall of 2001, a new website was debuted by webmaster Brad Chambers at www.neasce.org. In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Section collected names of individuals who would be willing to help the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency in case of a local disaster. The Section also participated in the “Spirit of America Heartland Parade,” held by the City of Ralston on Sunday, October 7. The parade was held to “recognize our fellow American Citizens, Firefighters and Police Officers who lost their lives in New York and Washington.”
NEASCE joined in celebrating ASCE’s 150th Anniversary in 2002. The Section’s efforts were chaired by Past President Joe Waxse. Nate Dickerson, Daren Konda, and Ryan Paradis presented “Building Big” activities in several classrooms. A long article on ASCE’s Policy Statement 465: Academic Prerequisites for Licensure and Professional Practice was included in the Section newsletter. Policy Statement 465, which has been known by several monikers over the years (beginning with “First Professional Degree”), was here to stay, and NEASCE would find itself in the spotlight due to it over the next decade.
With the coming of 2003, the annual joint meeting with the UNL Chapter was held in the newly completed Othmer Hall. Another first (of many) – the Younger Member Group (YMG) hosted an “FAC” (Friday Afternoon Club) shortly after Co-Chairs Lindsay Madsen and Marie Maly took the reins. Also, the Section was treated to a presentation from Mission Middle School’s Future City team as our regional contest winner went on to win the national title. In other outreach news, one student from Omaha North and his three balsa wood trusses swept the Truss Bustin’ competition. Owing to the efforts of Rick Kaufmann, the Section also included an Order of the Engineer initiation at the May 2003 Annual Meeting – a dozen members accepted the Obligation and the ring. Others would join over the years as ASCE offered the initiation at many conferences and training weekends. The YMG also worked with Boy Scouts to host an Engineering/Architecture/Construction Exploring Post Design-Build Competition – teams of students used odd items to create boats for load testing in a swimming pool.
In 2004, the busy YMG hosted panel discussions with the UNO and UNL Student Chapters of ASCE, a second Design-Build Contest (an egg launch) for the Boy Scouts Exploring program, and joined other members of the Section in providing assistance at the Mid-Continent Regional Student Conference (concrete canoe, steel bridge, etc.), which was hosted by UNL. President Loras Klostermann was notified of vandalism at the Nelson Buck Historical Site near Marion, NE on Highway 89. While a plaque on site mentions that ASCE prepared the historical site, no one on the Board had any recollection or information. A little internet research taught members that Nelson Buck and his entire survey party were killed near the site in 1869.
The first Transportation Conference was held at the Scott Conference Center in April of 2005. An immediate success, Chair Dave Ayala’s efforts were rewarded with 125 attendees. The Transportation Conference has become an annual event on the NEASCE calendar, along with the Geotechnical Conference (GEO-Omaha, held in February regardless of the weather) and the Structural Conference (held each September).
Back in 2004, ASCE voted to restructure the Society’s governance into nine (9) domestic Regions and one international Region. In 2006, when the changes took effect, Nebraska became part of Region 7, along with Sections and Branches from Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota. This was not much of a change, since Region 7 is comprised entirely of the same territory District 16 had been. Loras Klostermann was the first Region Governor for the Nebraska/Wyoming area; he served until 2015.
The fall of 2006 found Younger Members playing kickball and President Tom Marnik implementing two new initiatives: free student meals at meetings and permanent (plastic and magnetic) name tags. The Section also offered its opinion of the Society’s political aspirations. The Society was considering forming a 501(c)6 organization and Political Action Committee (PAC) – while the issue was being studied, the Section Board submitted a Resolution to headquarters indicating opposition to the idea. Brian Pallasch (ASCE Staff) presented on the topic at the November Section meeting. Ultimately, ASCE decided not to pursue any changes. The Section also formed a committee (Tom Marnik, Marie Maly, Tom Strauss, and Ed Prost) to update the Section’s Constitution and Bylaws. The newly revised governing documents were approved by the membership in November 2007.
In early 2008, State Senator Joel Johnson introduced Legislative Bill (LB) 742, which would change licensing provisions related to engineers. The legislation would implement changes made in the model law passed in 2006 by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) to modify the educational requirements for attaining a professional engineer’s license (Bachelor’s + Master’s or 30 credits). NEASCE members were actively involved in promoting the bill, and Section President Ed Prost testified on behalf of the Section on February 27. The bill was held over in committee until the next year, so in the fall, NEASCE hosted two town hall meetings to discuss the effort to “Raise the Bar.” Dale Jacobsen and Mike Conzett from the Board of Architects and Engineers presented. ASCE continues to advocate that the Body of Knowledge necessary for entry into professional practice cannot be contained in a Bachelor’s degree; however, no licensing jurisdiction has enacted legislation to reflect the NCEES model law (as of 2017).
At the 2008 Annual Meeting, the Section unveiled two new resources, paid for in part by ASCE’s State Public Affairs Grant (SPAG) program and executed by President-Elect Marie Maly, Daren Konda, and Amelia Toellner. Three retractable displays were created, featuring information about the Society, benefits of Section membership, and the areas of emphasis for Civil Engineers. Outreach kits were also assembled for members or teachers to check out. One kit includes “Zoom Into Engineering” activities for the youngest crowd, one includes “Building Big” activities for older kids, and one has a mix of activities. A fourth kit contains pieces to construct a through-truss bridge, which can be placed on chair “abutments” for the kids (or anyone weighing less than 175 lbs) to crawl across. The Section also purchased the “Building Big” DVD set.
The 21st Annual Truss Bustin’ competition (now Chaired by John Hill) was held at the Qwest Center during the Home & Garden Expo and 212 trusses were entered. Also in 2009, the Structural, Geotechnical, and Transportation Technical Chairs worked with the Section Treasurer to investigate online conference registration. Several members, including President John Hill, Past President Marie Maly, and Region 7 Governor Loras Klostermann, made the quick trip to Kansas City in October 2009 to attend ASCE’s Annual Conference, and a panel held at the November Section meeting discussed everything from online registration to printed newsletters and outreach offerings.
In 2010, the Section embraced the digital age – after much research by Patricia Perez, Brian Havens, Daren Konda, Bill Arneson, and John Hill, GEO-Omaha became the first Section conference to try our new online registration/payment system: EventBrite. President John Hill’s son David, a Civil Engineering student at UNL, created a simple registration page to use for Section meetings. The last paper copy of the Nebraska Civil Engineer newsletter was mailed to members in October. Also, due to the economic downturn, the Section Board voted to limit the fee for Section meetings to $15 regardless of the cost.
The Structural Conference, Chaired by Scott Gilliland and held in September of 2011, had a record attendance of more than 300. The Younger Members had fun playing kickball in the fall and collecting Toys for Tots in December. The UNL Student Chapter hosted the Mid-Continent Student Conference in April 2012. Once again, the Section provided a donation, judges, and speakers. Andres Torres represented the Section as a panelist on “Global Competence: Best Practices for the 21st Century” at the 142nd Annual Civil Engineering Conference in Montreal, Canada (October 2012). Also in October, NEASCE participated in the Peter Kiewit Institute’s (PKI) Open House for high school students and their parents. Section volunteers gave away goody bags and held a penny bridge contest. With only one sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper and five paper clips, the winning student supported well beyond the goal of 100 pennies – the bridge held 270 pennies!
In August 2013, the Nebraska Section hosted the Region 7 Board of Governors and Assembly meetings in Omaha. In addition to Director Vaughan Griffiths and the Governors, which included Nebraska Section member and Governor Loras Klostermann, representatives from all the Sections in Region 7, as well as staff and special guests were in attendance. As NEASCE began the year’s meetings in the fall, a newly revised website went live. For the first time, initial set up and organization was handled by a web designer (as opposed to a Section member volunteer). Regular updating is handled by the Section’s webmaster.
The Section started accepting credit cards for payment at Section meetings in January of 2014. The Geotechnical Committee planned a “short course” for the day prior to the annual GEO-Omaha conference. It was well received and has since become an annual event. The May 2014 Annual Meeting and Banquet was held at TD Ameritrade Baseball Park – home of the College World Series. The event , attended by over 100, included tours of the facility and a presentation by David Brown, President of the Greater Omaha Chamber, as well as the usual awards and officer elections/installation. Also, the Transportation Scholarship fund, which was established in 2013, became sustainable, and therefore able to be awarded for the coming year.
On October 10, 2014, NEASCE participated in the University of Nebraska’s Engineering Day. Volunteers manned a booth and acted as tour guides for the 500 freshmen from the College of Engineering. The YMG even hosted a bowling competition. On October 26, the Section was again represented at the PKI Open House. Outreach activities continued to expand – the Section’s displays were updated and a fourth was added with information on how to become a Civil Engineer. The Section also planned the first “School Blitz” – a massive outreach event held during E-Week. NEASCE members celebrated Engineers Week by visiting local schools to give presentations and lead activities with a focus on Civil Engineering. Thanks to John Smith’s energy and enthusiasm, 709 students (Kindergarten through High School) in 29 classrooms, 8 schools, and 4 school districts in Omaha and Lincoln were exposed to Civil Engineering. At the annual Truss Bustin’ competition, coordinator Ryan Hanson and a team of volunteers tested more than 150 trusses. In just one month, NEASCE reached over 1100 individuals, not including parents and other family members!
2015 and Beyond
Thanks to a grant secured by the Section and the work of Chair Ryan Hanson, the 2016 edition of Truss Bustin’ used a new testing machine. Previous contests borrowed a testing machine from one of the participating high schools. Having our own testing device to use allows for greater variety in designs – like the arch truss with segmented bottom chord required for 2016. Five Omaha area high schools participated with a total of 107 students and 84 trusses. The 2016 School Blitz was another success – eleven volunteers presented to over 550 students in 23 different classrooms.
2016 became a year filled with planning for major events. The Central Region Younger Member Council recommended Omaha to host the 2018 Multi-Region Leadership Conference for Regions 3, 6, and 7. Four Younger Members attended the 2016 event to pitch our Section for hosting duties… and then began brainstorming for the weekend. (Detailed planning efforts will kick off in mid-2017.) Matt Hubel volunteered to serve as Chair of the Centennial Committee, which began meeting to plan events for 2017. Also, a new scholarship agreement with the University of Nebraska Foundation was signed by Section President Joe Flaxbeard. Immediately available due to a large initial contribution, the scholarship will be awarded to an undergraduate student at either campus (Lincoln or Omaha) who participates in ASCE.
In the fall of 2016, NEASCE began using Constant Contact for meeting registration purposes. Due to an agreement with the Society, there is no cost to the Section, and registrants can even pay via credit card or PayPal. The Section’s newsletter is posted online monthly, but events are created within Constant Contact. Registrants view details, sign up, pay, view a map to the event location, and add information to their calendar from the event’s landing page. Thus far, it has been used with great success for Section meetings, conferences, and volunteer opportunities.
Our Centennial year (2017) began with a flurry of activity. The Section played host for the 2017 Engineer’s Roundtable E-Week Banquet. Governor Pete Ricketts signed a Proclamation recognizing our Centennial year. Outreach events were held at the Omaha and Lincoln Children’s Museums. The third annual School Blitz exposed elementary students to engineering, and the Future City and Truss Bustin’ competitions reached older students. We look forward to our Centennial Gala and Annual Meeting in May… and the next 100 years!