BYU wins national ASCE award

The BYU chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) was honored with the Robert Ridgway Student Chapter Award, naming them the most outstanding student chapter in the nation.  

This is the seventh time the BYU chapter has won the Ridgway Award—an accolade that comes with a $5,000 prize. 

The award came unexpectedly to former club presidents Sarva Pulla, from Hyderabad, India, and John DeLeon, from Austin, Texas. But looking back on the chapter’s progress, they both say they are proud of the work the club accomplished in 2015.

“We thought we just had moderate increases in the things that we did,” DeLeon says. “But in retrospect, they were greater than we thought.”

One of their goals was to provide 300 hours of engineering-related service, and they ended the year with a whopping 839 hours. BYU ASCE was approached by an engineering firm to help design a footbridge in Saratoga Springs, Utah. They worked alongside Anderson Engineering to design a pedestrian bridge to make the community safer for children playing near a neighborhood canal.  The team used their engineering skills in 29 other projects like building homes for the needy through Habitat through Humanity, or refurbishing garden beds in a local park.

“Service set us apart,” Pulla says. “This year our goals were more defined, and we exceeded them by quite a bit.”

The chapter wanted to increase membership by 20 percent, so they asked department chair Rollin Hotchkiss to send a personal email inviting students to join the club. Because of their efforts, they increased local membership from 136 to 237 members, and they increased national membership by 453 percent. 

Matt Roblez, Utah ASCE section president and structural engineer at McNeil Engineering, addressed the chapter at the award ceremony last Thursday. He said that although engineering is difficult, there are avenues that make it easier—like ASCE.

DeLeon can attest—he was contacted by a local engineering firm and ultimately offered an internship just because he was a member of the ASCE.

“That is one of the biggest reasons we have the club,” Pulla says.  “It’s so we can network and be in a good position to find a job later on.”

The award was presented by Seth Olsen, region 8 governor, and other ASCE representatives were in attendance at the ceremony including Degen Lewis, Central Utah Branch (CUB) president; Jeff Egbert, CUB president-elect; Steven Lord, BYU ASCE Practitioner Advisor; Michelle Howes, Utah Younger Member Forum (YMF) president; and Connie Hollo, also of the Utah YMF.

"ASCE exists to help us be better engineers,” Lord said. “And it exists to make us better people."

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