BYU student takes first prize in national ASCE ethics competition

A civil engineering student from Brigham Young University took first prize and $1,000 in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) national ethics competition.

Every year, hundreds of engineering students submit their papers in the hopes of winning the distinguished Daniel W. Mead award. This year Trevor Jones, a senior in the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology, came in first place in the nation.

The Daniel W. Mead contest began in 1939 and was named after the 67th President of ASCE. The contest itself is writing based, and centers on the topic of professional ethics. This year’s topic was “Natural Disasters – What are the Civil Engineer’s Responsibilities?”

Jones’ paper focuses on the engineer’s responsibility to protect human life, especially in regards to natural disasters. He believes that human life can be protected during times of disaster through responsible design, conscientiously writing and approving specification codes and honest risk advisement to the public.

“During times of catastrophic natural disaster, public infrastructure is pushed to its limit,” Jones said in his paper. “It is the engineer's responsibility to ensure that all possible precautions are taken so that, when a natural disaster inevitably does occur, structures and infrastructure remain intact, and the public remains safe. Only when engineers have done this can the public be truly safe from nature's fury.”

One of the distinguishing factors for Jones’ paper was his use of real-world examples to demonstrate the practical application of his thesis.

“I think one of the things that might have set it apart is that I spent a good portion of the paper talking about case studies,” Jones said. “Times when engineers actually made a big difference in the safety of others during natural disasters.”

The Mead award brings a high level of notoriety, but for Jones, winning the award gave him more self-confidence.

“I couldn’t believe I had won, I was ecstatic,” Jones said. “I was able to win this national award, and compete against very prominent engineering schools. It helped boost my confidence a lot.”

For over 75 years ASCE has recognized and praised greatness in young engineers. Founded in 1852 by a group of twelve engineers, the ASCE represents over 145,000 members of the engineering world today, and is widely considered one of the largest and oldest engineering societies.

Jones’ article can be found at the ASCE website, along with information for students interested in applying. 

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