In this episode, we talk with Sam Warren, P.E., GE, PMP, and vice president of Farrell Design-Build, the West Coast business unit of Menard USA. Joining him today are two new engineering professionals coming out of college, Adam Fayko and Luis Pinedo. We talk about the dynamic interplay of AI in geotechnical engineering. the challenges and opportunities this presents for young engineers, and how AI is reshaping engineering practices.
Here Are Some of the Questions We Ask Sam, Adam, and Luis:
- What are your thoughts on the changing role of experienced engineers in the AI-driven industry?
- How has AI influenced your undergraduate studies in the past year, and what specific changes or developments have you observed?
- How do you think AI will affect your undergraduate studies, both in terms of benefits and potential drawbacks?
- How has AI technology changed the field of geotechnical engineering in recent years?
- How crucial do you believe AI will be for your long-term career?
- What are some innovative practices that companies can adopt to create a workplace culture that supports the growth of young talent?
- What actions do you think employers and engineering organizations can take in this new AI field?
- When choosing an employer, what qualities are important to you, and how do you see AI impacting those qualities in the long run?
- What are some significant challenges that young engineers might encounter while adapting to these new work environments?
- What challenges do you anticipate for future young engineers?
- How can we generate greater interest among young students in the field of geotechnical engineering?
- What significant changes do you foresee in the practices or methodologies of geotechnical engineering?
- How can AI be integrated into your daily tasks, and what are the next steps in achieving this integration?
- What do you foresee for the progress of geotechnical engineering?
- What is the most important advice that young engineers should follow to ensure a successful lifelong career?
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About the Unforeseen Impacts of AI on Geotechnical Engineering:
- Experienced geotechnical engineers are unsure about how artificial intelligence (AI) will shape their field. They’re questioning whether AI will become as crucial as computers and phones did in the past. To find answers, they’re looking to younger engineers who have immersed themselves in AI through academic exposure.
- ChatGPT is a game-changer for various tasks, helping with writing improvements, clarifying concepts, and providing information when needed. It’s not just about words — it also automates tasks like turning PDF tables into Excel-friendly CSV files using its optical character recognition (OCR). This versatility proves handy in both professional and academic settings.
- Using AI, like ChatGPT, has benefits such as grammar checks and research ideas, but there’s a downside. Depending too much on AI during undergrad years may hinder critical thinking and collaboration with peers, replacing meaningful interactions with a quick solution. Balancing AI assistance with traditional learning is key to a well-rounded education.
- The current use of AI in geotechnical engineering is primarily seen in peripheral services like Outlook and spell check, with limited integration into core calculations. The younger generation, well-versed in both geotechnical engineering and AI advancements, has a significant opportunity to explore AI’s potential in reshaping the industry, possibly leading to the emergence of new companies alongside established players like CSI and Bentley.
- Looking ahead 10 to 20 years, AI seems crucial for efficiency and organization, especially in automating daily tasks, although its specific role in geotechnical engineering is still unfolding.
- Amid the fascination with AI, it’s vital to prioritize human skills like selling and effective communication. Mentorship is irreplaceable, requiring ongoing support for the new generation. Embracing openness to new ideas is key to avoiding the mistake of closing yourself off to technological advancements. Recognizing AI’s impact on various aspects of life, even if it takes time in geotechnical engineering, is crucial for staying relevant and inclusive.
- In the AI field, employers and engineering organizations should focus on creating an open and innovative atmosphere. They should also think about establishing guidelines for ethical AI use in the future. Regular training, possibly in collaboration with AI creators, helps keep employees informed about advancements. This ensures the smooth and practical integration of new technologies into the workplace.
- For those considering future careers, companies demonstrating a commitment to growth and innovation are appealing. Opting for organizations that consistently upgrade their infrastructure signals long-term stability, making them attractive for a lasting partnership.
- For young individuals, the challenge is resisting the temptation to rely on AI for easy grades. True learning comes from tackling tough questions, not opting for shortcuts. Even if AI offers suggestions, having the judgment to question and understand is crucial. Focus on personal growth and career development, without getting sidetracked by AI promises.
- The fast-paced tech progress is a hurdle for upcoming engineers, leading to a disconnect between what’s taught in school and what’s needed in the professional world. It raises concerns that students, heavily relying on AI in education, might be less prepared for real workplace challenges and broadening the skills gap.
- To spark interest in geotechnical engineering among students, give engaging presentations, especially in junior colleges. Discuss big projects and talk about job opportunities in the field to show the practical side of a career in geotechnical engineering. Start with exciting ideas and build on them to grab and keep their attention.
- In geotechnical engineering, it’s crucial to gather site-specific data for accurate results. Rather than sticking to traditional methods, the idea is to explore the wealth of available data to find new connections. Updating correlations based on real-site data is key. This approach aims to improve engineering practices, offer better services, and ultimately ensure safer outcomes for the public. The goal is to empower the younger generation to develop tools that will make designs and structures safer and more reliable in the future.
- For those exploring AI integration, identify its strengths in areas like data analysis and OCR capabilities. Start with simpler tasks during gradual implementation and allow time before applying them to more complex assignments requiring engineering judgment.
- Currently, there is a surge of new software products being developed, not only for geotechnical engineering but for every field. It is predicted that many of these software products will implement AI and increase automation, which will reduce the amount of manual work required to obtain data and perform calculations. This will lead to an increase in software reliability. In the future, technical training will be more focused on understanding how to work with these programs, which will be necessary for many fields.
- Stay focused and avoid getting distracted by new and flashy things that promise to make life easier. Focus on what you know and become more confident in that knowledge. Understand what you don’t know and seek to improve in those areas. Employers are always looking for self-driven individuals who have a desire to improve themselves and their skills.
More Details in This Episode…
About the Guests:
Sam Warren, P.E., GE, PMP
Sam Warren is vice president of Farrell Design-Build, the West Coast business unit of Menard USA. Over the last 15 years, Sam helped grow Farrell from a small Geopier licensee into a large design-build ground improvement and deep foundation contractor servicing the Western United States. He joined Menard USA when Farrell was acquired in 2021. Sam loves serving employees by sustaining an atmosphere of encouragement, curiosity, and support to create meaningful professional development. “We can sustainably serve our customers after we have first served our people.” Sam is a licensed geotechnical engineer in California and a licensed professional engineer in multiple states. He also enjoys playing in the sandbox with his two young toddlers in between daily geotechnical work.
Adam Fayko is an aspiring civil engineer, currently completing his final year at California State University, Sacramento. His academic pursuits are strongly grounded in real-world experience, highlighted by his current internship at Farrell Design Build. In this role, Adam plays a key part in assisting the engineering team with design and quality control tasks, showcasing his ability to apply theoretical knowledge in practical settings.
Previously, Adam expanded his expertise through an internship at a geotechnical firm, where he was involved in various critical aspects of engineering, including lab work, field exploration, and classification. He also developed proficiency in report writing, a skill that complements his technical acumen. Adam’s blend of academic knowledge and hands-on experience positions him well for a promising career in the field of civil engineering, where he is eager to tackle challenges and contribute to innovative solutions in the industry.
Luis Pinedo is an emerging professional in the field of civil engineering, currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree at California State University, Sacramento, with an anticipated graduation in May 2024. His academic journey is distinguished by active participation and leadership in the American Society of Civil Engineers for over a year, reflecting his dedication to the profession.
Since May 2023, Luis has been honing his practical skills as an engineering intern at Farrell Design-Build Companies, Inc. This role allows him to apply his academic knowledge in real-world settings, particularly in areas of design and construction. His responsibilities in this internship position are instrumental in developing his hands-on experience in the field.
Additionally, Luis has been a committed member of the CPP CalGeo Student Chapter since March 2022. His involvement in this chapter signifies his eagerness to engage with the geotechnical aspect of civil engineering, further broadening his expertise and network within the engineering community. Luis Pinedo’s blend of academic excellence, practical experience, and professional involvement marks him as a promising individual poised to make significant contributions to the field of civil engineering.
About the Host: Jared M. Green, P.E., BC.GE, F.ASCE
Jared, originally from southwest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, graduated from Syracuse University’s College of Engineering in 2001 with a B.S. in Civil Engineering. He later went on to attain his M.S. in Civil Engineering (Geotechnical Focus) from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Campaign, in 2002. In 2003, he began working in the New York City office of Langan. He has since become a Principal / Vice President and is one of the owners of this international land development engineering consulting firm. After 15 years at Langan, Jared moved to the Philadelphia office and is one of the geotechnical practice leaders in that office.
Jared is a consultant and team leader who also enjoys mentoring young engineers and first-generation college students. He has been instrumental in increasing the number of pre-college students who are interested in STEAM majors and fields. He strives to make complex engineering topics relatable and understandable to people new to the field and to people who are completely unfamiliar with engineering. Jared and his family currently reside in Flemington, New Jersey. He and his wife have three energetic, inquisitive, and awesome children. You can connect with Jared here.
Sacramento State University
American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC)
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
Bipartisan Infrastructure Act
Connect with Sam Warren, P.E., GE, PMP, on LinkedIn
Connect with Luis Pinedo on LinkedIn
This Episode Is Brought to You by:
Menard USA is a specialty ground improvement contractor that works nationally providing design-build ground improvement solutions at sites with problematic soils. Menard works closely with civil, structural, and geotechnical engineers to minimize foundation costs for a wide range of soil conditions, structure types, and loading conditions. To learn more about Menard USA, or for help on your next project, please visit www.menardusa.com.
PPI has helped engineers achieve their licensing goals since 1975. Passing the FE and PE exams can open doors to career advancement and new opportunities. Check out PPI’s wide range of prep options, including Live Online courses, on-demand courses, and digital study tools, to help prepare you to pass your licensing exam. Check out PPI today at ppi2pass.com to see all the options available for FE and PE exam prep.
Please leave your comments or questions in the section below on the unforeseen impacts of AI on geotechnical engineering.
To your success,
Jared M. Green, P.E., BC.GE, F.ASCE
Host of The Geotechnical Engineering Podcast