Kyle Palagi, a Structural Engineer in our Great Falls office, was recently awarded a scholarship to attend the NCSEA Structural Engineering Summit. He was one of eight nationally, to be awarded a Scholarship to Young Members. Kyle wrote and submitted an essay that won him his spot.
Kyle says, “I am honored to have been selected for this scholarship. I look forward to attending the Structural Engineering Summit in Washington, D.C. and am excited for the opportunity to learn from, and connect with, some of the brightest minds in the structural engineering industry. Attending conferences like this one, and involvement with organizations like NCSEA, allow us to engage in the national structural engineering arena and contribute our expertise wherever we can. This scholarship will give me the opportunity to participate in NCSEA in a meaningful way.”
Read his essay below. Kyle’s and other winning essays can be found at the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations website.
Kyle is a member of the Structural Engineers Association of Montana.
Discuss the challenges facing young structural engineers today. How does your involvement within your SEA Membership Organization and/or NCSEA contribute to address these challenges?
“Today, young structural engineers face a multitude of challenges, some of which are new to this generation of engineers while others are age-old obstacles that engineers have had to overcome since the dawn of our profession. The upcoming generation of engineers does not want the profession to be the same as it has been. These engineers desire change that includes emphasis on work/life balance, gender equality, and utilizing technology to advance our design capabilities. NCSEA and our local SEA Membership Organizations are the vessels for this change while also providing support and opportunities for young engineers throughout the profession. The technical challenges of our profession are ever growing. We are constantly pushing the limits with taller buildings, compressed schedules, and more economical designs, all while creating structures with better response to natural disasters and greater levels of life safety. Some of the most challenging projects that I have encountered in my early career are the seismic retrofits of existing structures. The public can develop a strong sentimental attachment to buildings and still these buildings are expected to maintain a minimum level of safety during an earthquake event for which they were never designed to withstand. We often encounter unreinforced masonry walls that do not have adequate connections to the diaphragm or the foundation and it is up to the structural engineer to determine what needs to be reinforced, to what level it should be designed, and how to augment the existing structure in a method that is constructible and safe for the workers. In April, I attended a seminar organized by the Structural Engineers Association of Montana (SEAMT) where Robert Pekelnicky of Degenkolb Engineers presented an excellent lecture about ASCE 41-13 and methods of performing Tier 2 and Tier 3 seismic analyses of existing buildings. This is just one example of how our local SEA Membership Organizations provide technical guidance and support for the increased technical demands facing engineers today. SEAMT typically organizes two seminars throughout the year, one in the spring and another in the fall. These seminars keep engineers up to speed on the latest design methods and help to unify our profession. A particular challenge to young engineers and the future generations of our professions is to decrease the gender gap in technical fields. In the past, engineers have been predominantly male. This has created a stereotype that has discouraged females from pursuing technical careers. This must change in order to diversify our profession and attract the great minds of both male and female students to the profession of engineering. Through organizations like NCSEA and others that promote our profession there has been an increased effort to specifically target and provide opportunities to young women. When I look at organizations such as NCSEA and SEAMT, I am encouraged by what I see. Both organizations have female leaders and colleagues that are invaluable to our profession and role models to young minds across the nation. My wife, a mechanical engineer, and I are blessed to have a brilliant 2-year-old daughter. We hope to instill the confidence in her to pursue a technical career, if she so chooses, and expose her to all realms of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Today, the structural engineering profession appears to be in a state of turbulence when it comes to licensure. Some states require an SE license while others require only the PE license. Others require both a PE and an SE license to practice structural engineering. These mixed requirements from state to state can be confusing to a new practitioner. Furthermore, the general public might view the inconsistent licensure laws as disconcerting. The structural engineering profession across the U.S. needs to present a unified front to safeguard public trust. The SE exam itself is challenging and daunting for both experienced and young engineers alike; however, it is an important exam for ensuring the overall safety of our structures and to protect the welfare of the general public. I live and work in Montana, a state where only the PE is required for practicing structural engineering. However, I chose to also take the SE exam because I believe that structural engineers need to show competence by means of an exam that is more specific and more demanding than the material that is tested on the PE exam. By utilizing the resources of SEAMT and NCSEA I was able to draw upon the experiences and issues that other engineers experienced while studying and taking the SE exam. The networking avenues created through these organizations and the technical support that these organizations offer was essential to my studying. I sat for both Vertical and Lateral Force portions of the exam in October 2016 and was able to successfully pass both sessions. As a young member of SEAMT it is my responsibility to help and provide guidance for other young members wishing to pursue SE licensure. Perhaps the most effective avenue for providing this support is through active involvement in the Young Member Group. Furthermore, it is my belief that, in the near future, SEAMT will be at the forefront of promoting SE licensure within the state of Montana and coming one step closer to a unified professional standard. Organizations such as NCSEA and the SEA Membership Organizations promote our profession and provide leadership to our ever-changing profession. Young engineers often have the desire to contribute in a personal but do not know the best manner in which to get involved. I have often found myself asking “How can I give back to my profession in a meaningful way and participate in the actions of NCSEA?” The answer to this question is to get involved with the Young Member Group (YMG) of NCSEA. The YMG is the perfect vessel for taking young motivated structural engineers and educating them about the opportunities that are available through NCSEA and within the SEA Membership Organizations. The SEA young member groups provide young engineers with a resource for transitioning from academics to the professional arena and a starting place for becoming an active contributor to the overall profession of structural engineering. Although only a few of the challenges facing young engineers have been discussed here, it is apparent that NCSEA and the SEA Membership Organizations can be utilized to help young engineers overcome these challenges and propel their careers to new heights. We all have a responsibility to participate and give back to the profession that has given us so much satisfaction. Furthermore, we have a responsibility to the profession, to mentor young engineers and ensure the success of future generations. Through active involvement in NCSEA and our SEA Member Organizations, we can achieve these lofty goals for our profession and improve the outlook for the future of structural engineering.”
Posted on September 13, 2017