The 2016 CSCE Annual Conference took place at Ontario, Canada, between June 1st and 4th. Our representative at the conference, Kevin Parrish, wrote about his experience there.
This years Annual Conference was held in London, Ontario, at the London Convention Center from June 1st to June 4th. It was a beautifully warm and sunny stretch of days, and the conference brought together over 600 students, young professionals, and experienced engineers from the civil engineering industry. The conference was extremely well choreographed with a variety events occurring continuously for the four day duration. This year, the theme and focal point, resilient infrastructure, brought sustainability to the forefront of civil engineering by emphasizing the value and importance of designing and building with the future in mind.
The many features of the conference can be categorized into four main areas, with interspersed networking and learning opportunities as well. Keynote speakers, workshops, presentations, and social events all helped to create an interesting and entertaining four days. The speakers at the events covered an array of topics, drawing on personal experience, research, and business endeavours to share their passions with the audience. From structural to transportation and from wind to water treatment, the conference covered all facets of civil engineering in one all-encompassing series of events.
Four Keynote Speakers
- Dr. Terri McAllister – Tools & Guidance for Resilient Infrastructure
- Dr. Michael Fenn – The Future is Not What It Used to be
- Dr. Ian Burgess – Connection Behaviour and the Robustness of Steel-Framed Structures in Fire
- Dr. Dennis Millette – The Lac-Megantic Disaster and Emergency Remediation
Workshops for Students and Young Professionals
- Career planning
- Resilient infrastructure
- Student Leadership
Technical Papers and Presentations
- Approximately 400 technical papers from across Canada
- Highlighted in 15 minute presentations
- Presentations took place concurrently throughout the 4 day conference
Social and Networking Events
- Toboggan Brewery Pub Night – June 1
- Palasad Social Night – June 2
- Labatt Brewery and Escape Room – June 3
Wednesday, June 1st
On Wednesday morning I flew out of Vancouver at 9:30am on my way to Toronto International Airport, looking forward to my first time in Ontario and excited to make my way to the conference. The flight landed in Toronto at around 4:30pm, a four hour flight coupled with a three hour time difference. The timing was ideal, with my connecting flight to London boarding at 5:30. From Toronto International, London is only a twenty minute flight. This short flight got me to the London airport at about 7:00, meaning I was able to check in to my hotel downtown by 7:30.
The London Convention Center is conveniently close to the Holiday Inn I stayed at, and once I had gotten cleaned up I walked the three blocks to the convention center. The first networking evening was already underway at the Center, so after going through registration I had my first chance to meet some new people and mingle with the crowd. At around 9:30pm a large group split off from the convention center and made their way to the Toboggan Brewery, so after a quick stop at the hotel I followed suit.
While at the pub I met with a bunch of students from various universities across Canada, however eastern universities had a much stronger presence due to this year’s location. This was the first chance to meet other students and recent grads outside of the more professional conference setting. At the end of the night several of us staying at the Holiday Inn walked back to the hotel as a large group around mid night.
Thursday, June 2nd
To start off the second day of the conference I went to the first workshop, which was in the form of a panel discussion about career development at 9:30am. Even just the three hour time difference was enough to disrupt my sleep pattern, and I was unable to make the first keynote speaker that began the day at 8. The workshop was quite informative, with the panel comprised of four civil engineers with differing career paths, ranging from under 10 to over 40 years of experience. The group answered questions regarding their own careers as well as providing thoughts on the future of the industry.
At 11:00am there was a choice of ten different sets of four 15 minute presentations, I attended four on the topic of waste water management and zero liquid discharge technologies. These presentations introduced me to some technologies I hadn’t learned about in my recent courses, improving my knowledge in the area.
The second key note speaker presented during the lunch break between 12:00 and 2:00pm, discussing topics related to environmental change and the necessary adaptations required in civil engineering practices. The speech focussed particularly on water resource management and new treatment technologies with related case studies that showed the real world implications of his work.
After lunch I attended another four 15 minute presentations focussed on wood structures, describing some of the newest technologies and advances in timber design. Afterwards, I returned to the hotel to catch up on some work. I also took an hour or so for a quick workout at the local YMCA, with a pass courteously provided by Holiday Inn.
For the evening, both industry professionals and senior engineers as well as students and young professionals gathered together at the Palasad restaurant and bar for a night of bowling, pool, arcade games, and socializing. It was a crowd of almost 400, and the entire evening was covered by our registration, giving us a great time to get acquainted with the many new faces.
Friday, June 3rd
During the third breakfast keynote speech Dr. Ian Burgess spoke about his research on the topic of steel structural reactions to fire, describing the method that his company had developed to simplify the modelling process. One of the more technical keynotes, Dr. Burgess discussed the research and testing that his team had done to develop the new model. The results of the study provided a model that significantly improved on the methods used previously.
The first of the following two presentation sessions centered around the topics of wind engineering, particularly the effects of tornadoes on engineered structures. A large portion of this research had been done in London at Western University where students have access to a state of the art wind tunnel testing facility. The second presentation focussed on technological advances in intelligent transportation. This included the rise of interconnected vehicles and infrastructure and different techniques of gathering information on driver behaviour. The ultimate goal of this research aims to provide smoother transportation experiences through adaptive infrastructure.
The lunch break for this day featured the student awards, including president’s best chapters, top capstone projects, as well as best papers submitted. Out of the 24 student chapters across Canada, the first and second place awards for president’s best chapters were both given to Vancouver area universities; BCIT and UBC, respectively. As the representative of the UBC student chapter I accepted the award, joining on stage the Chair of the CSCE Student Affairs Committee, Charles-Darwin Annan, and the President of the CSCE Board of Directors, Tony Begin, to be given a plaque and have our photo taken.
After the lunch break, all the student chapter representatives from across Canada joined together for a student leader workshop, in which we identified prevalent issues facing the many chapters and brainstormed ideas to help the growth of the CSCE in the student body. Many of the ideas will be very beneficial to the continued growth of the UBC chapter, covering topics such as increased membership in younger students and greater collaboration with student clubs and teams.
To end the day, over 40 students and young professionals from the conference toured the Labatt brewery, founded in London, Ontario in 1847. The tour was capped off by sampling many of the different beers brewed at location in the brewery’s on-site tasting room. Following the tour, the group made our way to an escape room, testing or wits in a race to crack the riddles and escape within an hour. Out of five groups in different rooms, many managed to puzzle their way out, however our group was the fastest and made our way through in 54 minutes. To finish off the night, the entire group went to pub in downtown London for dinner and drinks into the evening.
Friday, June 4th
The last day of the conference, several events were still left in the program, however I flew back mid day so I spent the morning packing and preparing to leave. After checking out of the Holiday Inn I still had a few hours to kill before my flight. I took the opportunity to explore the Western University campus, spending a couple hours wandering around and seeing what there was to offer. The campus has a much older feel to it then UBC, with many of the buildings made of brick with antiquated architectural styles.
My flight from London left at 3:30pm, and the connection in Toronto was another smooth transition. Clear skies and sunshine across most of Canada made for many stunning views. I began writing during the flight and had some time to gather my thoughts and reflect on the conference experience. The many different presentations had given me a taste of the continuing advancement throughout the civil engineering field, and all presented by individuals at the cutting edge of their disciplines. Not only did I accept the award for UBC’s chapter, but I also had the chance to learn and develop with the many other student chapters from across Canada. The experience provided invaluable advice for the future of our chapter. The ongoing success of the UBC CSCE student chapter will surely benefit from having student representatives at these annual conferences, and next year’s conference in Vancouver will be an excellent opportunity for UBC to continue refining our reputation and building our success.