/ Corporate / ASCE’s 2015 OPAL Gala Celebrates the Profession’s Innovations and Innovators

ASCE’s 2015 OPAL Gala Celebrates the Profession’s Innovations and Innovators

Matt Ball on March 30, 2015 - in Corporate

The leaders of civil engineering broke out black ties and evening gowns Thursday night for ASCE’s annual springtime celebration of outstanding people and projects  – the OPAL Gala. The event feted the lifetime achievements of the five Outstanding Projects and Leaders honorees for 2015, as well as the Pankow, Michel, and Excellence in Journalism award winners, capped by the announcement of the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station as the winning Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement project.

“It is an honor to share this very special night with Society members,” said ASCE President Robert D. Stevens, P.E., F.ASCE. “We’re here this evening to celebrate the finest in our profession.”

The 2015 OPAL award trophies were presented to five renowned civil engineers whose career achievements have contributed to significant advancements in civil engineering. ASCE Executive Director Thomas W. Smith III, ENV SP, CAE, F.ASCE, far left, and ASCE President Robert D. Stevens, P.E., F.ASCE , far right, joined the proud recipients: Andrew K. Phelps, P.E., M.ASCE, for construction; Thomas D. Rust, P.E., M.ASCE, for government; Nicholas DeNichilo, P.E., M.ASCE, for management; Edward J. Schmeltz, P.E., F.ASCE, for design; and Bernard Amadei, Ph.D., Dist. M.ASCE, NAE, for education.

“The list of those important in my career is long and my time tonight short – so I have called and written each of my mentors thanking them for their wisdom and guidance,” said Phelps, principal vice-president and manager of operations for Bechtel Mining & Metals, in his acceptance speech. “Thanks to ASCE for all that you do to enhance our profession. I am truly, truly humbled by this award and recognition.”

“During the course of my career I have had the privilege to work with many talented and dedicated engineers who served as mentors, colleagues, and clients,” said Schmeltz, senior vice-president and director of Maritime and Special Projects at AECOM.  “I stand here tonight humbled that I have been selected by my peers for this prestigious award.”

Amadei is a professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and founding president of Engineers Without Borders USA and cofounder of the Engineers Without Borders International network. “This award needs to be shared with the many people who are committed to the success of Engineers Without Borders USA,” he told the gala audience, “especially the 15,000 professional and student volunteers of EWB-USA [who] are currently spread across 286 chapters and working in 600-plus projects in 39 countries. From the bottom of my heart I am forever grateful to all of you.”

Vice chairman of Philadelphia-based Pennoni Associates, Rust has been a member of the Virginia House of Delegates since 2002. “I am so proud to be part of the ASCE organization, which raises the level of the importance of our field through their work and helps the public appreciate how important infrastructure is to their daily lives,” he said. “For this, and for the public decision makers throughout the nation, I thank ASCE and the civil engineers who make things happen.”

DeNichilo, president and CEO of Hatch Mott MacDonald, is responsible for the success and sustainability of the firm’s entire North American operation. “It is a great honor to be included in the same league with previous OPAL awardees, especially Frank Lombardi, Bo Temple, Mike Loose, and Rick Capka, all of whom I have had the privilege to [work] with over the years as a member of ASCE’s Industry Leaders Council,” said DeNichilo. “Civil engineering is not only a solid career choice but a vocation with great purpose. There’s a great deal of important work that must be done and yes, it is us, the engineers, who will be called upon to meet these challenges in the years ahead. It’s an honor and privilege to be part of this great profession.”

Charles Pankow Award for Innovation

Pile Dynamics Inc.’s Thermal Integrity Profiler is the winner of ASCE’s 2015 Charles Pankow Award for Innovation. TIP is based on a technology that uses the heat generated by curing cement (hydration energy) to evaluate the integrity of cast-in-place concrete foundations such as drilled shafts, bored piles, micropiles, augered cast-in-place, continuous flight auger piles, and drilled displacement piles. The technology also can evaluate the shape of slurry walls and other concrete structures.

“It is always a researcher’s aspiration to produce fruitful findings that can be applied very quickly. Often, however, there are plenty of great ideas that never see the light of day. In this case, teaming with a great team of specialty engineers, dealing with progressive government agencies, and working with a terrific manufacturer – Pile Dynamics – well, that was the ticket to significantly shortening the road to application,” said Gray Mullins of the University of South Florida’s civil engineering department, which aided in TIP’s development. “I would like to thank ASCE for the recognition that has brought me here. I am honored to be accepting this distinguished award on behalf of a great team.”

Henry L. Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research

Anil K. Kar, Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE, was the recipient of ASCE’s Michel Award for Industry Advancement of Research. Kar is credited with many innovative and award-winning designs, including the C-bar, a rebar with a plain surface and a deformed axis with a capacity to significantly enhance the life span of concrete structures. “C-bar is a solution as simple as one could be, a zero-cost solution to the worldwide problem of early distress in concrete structures,” said Kar. “Saluting the distinguished awardees here this evening, I thank ASCE for this distinguished honor, which I happily accept.”

Excellence in Journalism Award

Jessica Morrison, a science journalist, was honored as the winner of ASCE’s 2015 Excellence in Journalism Award for enhancing public understanding of civil engineering. Her award-winning article for NOVA Next, a website affiliated with the PBS documentary series NOVA, “How Engineers Use Ground Freezing to Build Bigger, Safer and Deeper,” appeared on the site in October 2013.

Halley VI Antarctic Research Station Wins Coveted OCEA Award

The first fully relocatable polar research facility, the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station, was named the winner of ASCE’s 2015 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement award. Designed by AECOM of Reston, Va., and Hugh Broughton Architects of London, the Halley VI is segmented into eight modules, each atop ski-fitted, hydraulic legs that can be raised to overcome accumulating snow, or to be towed to a new location.

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