In this episode of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk to Tabitha Lafferre, E.I., an Assistant Professor of Engineering Technology at Fairmont State University about how the ASCE 2020 Report Card for West Virginia’s Infrastructure was a way of connecting engineering students with experienced professionals. Joining Tabitha in the conversation is one of her students, and the president of the ASCE Student Chapter, Lauren Johnson, who also worked on the report card.
Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask Tabitha and Lauren:
- Why would you say infrastructure and infrastructure report cards (IRC) are so paramount to the economy of a nation?
- You were both accepted to participate in the 2021 ASCE Legislative Fly-In on March 4th. What was that experience like for you both?
- What went into drafting the IRC for the American Society of Civil Engineers? And can you tell us more about the overall IRC drafting process?
- What was it like working with the champions and chairs?
- What are the five categories West Virginia’s infrastructure was rated on, and on what criteria were these categories evaluated?
- What are the results obtained of the state’s grades, and what are the recommendations made to improve these grades?
- What was your overall impression of the course?
- What were some of the benefits of the partnership between the students and the ASCE, and what advice can you give people interested in doing something similar?
Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Growing a Civil Engineering Firm:
- Infrastructure is what makes the world go round. The quality of infrastructure affects everyone. We rely on our infrastructure to keep us safe from environmental disasters. It fuels the economy because it provides transportation solutions to get goods from the suppliers to the stores.
- Civil engineers are responsible for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of our vital public works. It creates the responsibility to assess the state of our infrastructure.
- Report cards are essential. They report on the infrastructure’s condition and performance, and advise on the steps necessary to improve it.
- Participating in the 2021 ASCE Legislative Fly-In is a fantastic experience. It allows you to meet with state representatives and senators, enlighten them on the current state of the infrastructure, and promote infrastructure investment. It is a fantastic experience for students and young engineers to work with professional engineers and other students, and will also have an impact on your professional career.
- West Virginia took an innovative approach to draft its report card. It is one of the first states to utilize student members, who were assigned different categories to work on. The students had team leaders to ensure they met their drafting deadlines. The team leaders worked with champion engineers specializing in that specific category, and who assisted the student teams with the drafting and took them on field trips. As the students’ finished their drafts, the champion professionals revised the drafts. They submitted them to the ASCE for final editing to ensure consistency with national report cards.
- It is fascinating and educational for students to work with professionals in this way. It is eye-opening, and you learn things that you will never acquire in any classes.
- The five categories on the report card were dams, wastewater, drinking water, roads, and bridges. The categories were conditioning capacity, operations and maintenance, funding, future need, public safety, resilience, and innovation. The grade given for this report card was a D. The category results are as follows:
- Dams: D
- Wastewater: D
- Drinking water: D
- Roads: D+
- Bridges: D+
- It is neat to learn all the different parts that go into grading things on the report card. You see how the infrastructure directly impacts the health and safety of the public in that area.
- The entire process was a great learning experience for the students and the professionals who were involved. The champion professionals also said that they learned a lot from the students. It taught the students to work collaboratively with professionals with different skill sets and experience levels. This type of project yields better engineers entering the workforce and will benefit everyone in the long run.
More Details in This Episode…
About Tabitha Lafferre, E.I.
Tabitha is a registered EI in the state of West Virginia, and is currently the program coordinator for the Surveying & Geomatics Engineering Technology program at Fairmont State University, where she also serves as the faculty advisor to the ASCE student chapter. She received her undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering Technology from Fairmont State University in 2011 and her Master of Science in Civil Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2017. She brings in both construction and site analysis from the natural gas industry, having served as an engineering technician in the private sector. Tabitha is currently the Vice President of the West Virginia section of ASCE and is also a co-chair for the Infrastructure Report Card Committee.
About Lauren Johnson
Lauren Johnson is a senior student who is double-majoring in Civil Engineering Technology and Surveying & Geomatics Engineering Technology. She is the current president of the Fairmont State University ASCE Student Chapter. Lauren was the Student Project Manager of the section of the dams and participated on the wastewater team.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success