Alex Thompson on Challenges of High Arctic Engineering

On October 21st 2016, the UBC CSCE Student Chapter invited Alex Thompson to give a presentation on the Challenges of Design and Construction in the High Arctic. In 2015, Alex spent most of the summer on a construction site in Nanisivik located on the northern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut. While he was there, he witnessed many of the challenges associated with having a project site located so far north. Project equipment and materials had to be shipped in by boat and required over two months of travel time to arrive on site. This meant the contractor had to plan well ahead of time in order to meet project deadlines. The project required on-site mechanics and several spare parts for their machinery in order to quickly repair any equipment malfunctions instead of having replacement parts shipped. Due to permafrost conditions, the foundation designs required that the top layers of soil be removed until a layer of soil that would remain permanently frozen was reached. The excavation was then backfilled with non-frost susceptible soil to achieve a firm foundation to build upon. In addition, the project had to generate all their own power using diesel generators.

Alex Thompson on the Challenges of High Arctic Engineering

Alex Thompson on the Challenges of High Arctic Engineering

Justin Brown pointing at wood for UBC CSCE's StructureCraft Tour

The UBC CSCE Student Chapter organized a tour to the StructureCraft office in Delta, BC. The visit included a presentation as well as tour of StructureCraft’s in-house fabrication shop.

Justin Brown pointing at wood for UBC CSCE's StructureCraft Tour

Justin Brown pointing at wood for UBC CSCE’s StructureCraft Tour

Justin Brown, a past member of the Chapter and now structural engineer at StructureCraft, headed the tour. The presentation covered high profile projects that StructureCraft has undertaken and successfully completed. Justin went over the design and construction of the T3 building in Minneapolis, introducing many of the attendees to novel wood construction techniques that StructureCraft has pioneered. Using these techniques, the project was able to save substantial cost while also optimizing the build process.

UBC CSCE Members Up Close With Structural Timber

UBC CSCE Members Up Close With Structural Timber

The shop tour allowed the students to see the practical side of the structural engineering business and the interface between design and construction. Most of the wood products that the students learn about in their courses were on display at the shop. The tour was introduced to the concept of modular construction where much of the structure is assembled in the shop itself and shipped out to site saving a significant amount of time and requiring much less manpower.


The UBC Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE) Student Chapter toured two steel manufacturing facilities to celebrate International Steel Day. Pacific Bolt Co. and George Third & Son both opened the doors of their shops to help students understand the benefits and challenges of supplying structural steel for some of Vancouver’s largest projects.

Our first stop at Pacific Bolt started with an amazing smoked BBQ lunch followed by a tour of their shop. We were shown the process of heating, forming, and threading various high capacity bolts for highways, bridges, and other large projects.


At George Third & Son, we learned about some of the unique projects they have taken on in the past, including the production of the 60’ tall decorative steel trees at 57th Avenue and Granville Street and the riveting of a 6” diameter steel shackle pin for a US Navy aircraft carrier. In the shop, we were shown some of the completed beams for an ongoing project to manufacture the structural steel beams for a custom home in Burnaby.


We thank Pacific Bolt Co. and George Third & Son for welcoming us into their shops and teaching us about the work they do!


Keith Road Bridge
 Event Co-coordinator: Zhansulu Davletyarova

Peter Navratil, P. Eng, MPA joined the UBC CSCE Student Chapter to share his lessons learned from more than 20 years in the public sector.  Relating his involvement with advocating municipal engineering for the both the City of Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver, Peter shared his expertise on what makes great civil engineering leaders.

The group started by reflecting on where they felt they were on a self-awareness chart that split thinking and feeling into extroverted or introverted styles.  Peter described from experience which types of response is important in developing leadership skills.  He stated the importance of being an active listener and how it helps in managing conflicts. From his experience, he suggested students look for positions that require certain abilities rather than technical skills.  In other words, abilities to manage processes and communication skills (such as interacting with the public) sometimes are more important than the skills taught in school.

Summary of Tips to Improve Leadership Skills:

  1. Be an active listener
  2. Read about the topic (self-development books)
  3. Practice public speaking
  4. Balance work with extra-curricular activities
  5. Shift from skill-based towards ability-based jobs
  6. Reflect on your actions and how to improve


Thank you Peter for giving us this fantastic presentation.

Event Coordinator: Joshua Baylis

Co hosted by:
UBC-CSCE-Brand-Identity-Colour   seabc logo

DSD_4292On March 31st , 2015 the UBC CSCE Student Chapter and SEABC facilitated a 15 person tour of the Evergreen Light Rail Transit (EGRT) project in Port Moody. This tour was hosted by one of the projects joint venture contractors, Graham Construction.

We arrived to meet our host from Graham, Josh Binkley, who was accompanied by a design engineer from MMM Group Buho Joo. Buho did most of the design work for the sections of the construction we were going to tour. Josh and Buho provided a safety presentation and highlighted challenges of the structural design and construction project management on particular sections of the job that we were about to see in the field.

DSD_4305Josh and Buho then escorted our group to a laydown area for a segment of the project. We walked for about 1.5 km along the elevated guideway, listening to Josh and Buho as they discussed some challenges of the build that included: piling difficulties, high tolerances for rail alignment, unique formwork builds, working close to a CP railway, and meeting environmental standards in fish sensitive creeks.

This tour was very practical, converging a broad range of topics covered in our academic careers and showing us how it is applied in industry on a large infrastructure job. The UBC CSCE Student Chapter and SEABC would like to once again thank Josh and Graham Construction for hosting the tour.

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Event Coordinator: Howard Wong

Co hosted by:
UBC-CSCE-Brand-Identity-Colour   seabc logo

As a part of UBC CSCE Student Chapter’s events, a panel discussion co-hosted with SEABC – YMG on the new UBC Student Union Building was given on March 19, 2015. The discussion was led by seven representatives from three companies: Read Jones Christoffersen Ltd. (RJC), DIALOG, and UBC Properties Trust.

DSC_0708For the first part of the presentation, the architects, Kate Gerson and Andrew Larigakis, from DIALOG, noted key points which mostly included the initial designs of the project. They spoke of their collaboration with the UBC Alumni committee on the conceptual designs of the building and also talked about key features such as achieving LEED Platinum status.

DSC_0715The next part of the presentation was given by three structural engineers and one designer, Damien Stoneham, Natalia Myles, Shahryar Davoudi, and Bruce McGarvie respectively from RJC. Their discussion about the specific design challenges gave students a vivid picture of the building. Deflections and connections were highlighted challenges, but through thoughtful analysis, they were overcome with elegant results.

DSC_0722Lastly, Dan Giordano from UBC Properties Trust highlighted the development manager’s roll in the project. Dan highlighted the importance of stakeholders and stressed that elements needed for approval were carefully processed and that each part of the project was thoroughly analyzed.

The UBC CSCE Student Chapter and SEABC – YMG would like to thank all the participating companies and their respective representatives for taking their time to discuss the importance of the soon-to-be UBC SUB and answering our questions.

Event Coordinator: Howard Wong

Co hosted by:
UBC-CSCE-Brand-Identity-Colour   UBCITE

IMG_0142On March 11, 2015, the UBC CSCE and UBC ITE Student Chapter’s co-hosted an event titled “Binnie: The Project Manager” that was given by two representatives from Binnie, Jeff van den Eerenbeemt and Scott Campbell. Both representatives are UBC Alumni and are current project managers at Binnie. Binnie is a reputable, Western Canadian civil engineering company providing services in engineering infrastructure growth and development.

This particular event was given at Neville Scarfe Room 100 with an estimated total attendance of 80 people. The objective of the lecture that Jeff and Scott gave was to give students an overview of what it is like to be a Project Manager using specific projects that Jeff and Scott worked on. In addition professional advice was given to students in regards to obtaining a Professional Engineer title as a project manager.

IMG_0145This lecture gave students a lot of insight on the challenges with project management with examples from Jeff and Scott on noted projects such as the Port Mann Bridge, the Bridgeport Skytrain Station and the King George Boulevard project. Exceptional descriptions and roles of each project gave students a different perspective away from applied technical theory learnt in school.

The UBC CSCE and UBC ITE Student Chapter’s would like to thank Jeff and Scott for taking time to come and give a talk about project management and answering all of our questions. The presentation was thoroughly enjoyed and the UBC CSCE Student Chapter looks forward to working with Binnie again in the near future.

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Event Coordinators: Antonio Castro and Kevin Parrish

DSC_0693On March 5, 2015 the UBC CSCE Student Chapter invited Dr. Tom Culham to provide a two hour seminar on the role of emotional intelligence and personal ethics in the business world. Tom has 30 years of engineering experience and completed his Ph. D in 2012 at Simon Fraser University. His thesis, Ethics Education of Business Leaders, drew on neuroscience, psychology, virtue ethics, and leadership education emphasizing emotional intelligence.

The two part seminar provided CSCE members with an introduction to the concept of emotional intelligence (EI) and its role in business success. The lecture’s first half emphasized the ties between EI, personal virtue ethics, and decision making, focusing on the following points:

  • Mindfulness helps people
    • Become fully present, aware, and effective leaders;
    • Develop authenticity and compassion for oneself;
    • Clarify personal values;
    • Increase their awareness of the emotional dimension;
    • Improve decision making by accessing emotional knowledge,
    • Reduce emotional stress
  • Low emotional intelligence often corresponds to a lack of self-awareness, low self-compassion, and may lead to little self-regulation and poor leadership

DSC_0689The latter half of the seminar comprised of a situational exercise where groups were given a hypothetical business setting demonstrating ethics in action. This was followed by a discussion on the origins of ethical decision making.

We would like to thank Dr. Culham for this informative and engaging seminar. For more information, Dr. Culham’s book “Ethics Education of Business Leaders” is available for sale at the UBC Bookstore or electronically at the library, and he also recommends “The Power of Positive Emotions”. The slides from the seminar can found here.

Event Coordinators: Meghan Grant and Madison Klettke

DSC_0586The UBC CSCE Student Chapter invited UBC alumni George Toews and Don Jacobsen from Kiewit to present an overview of the demolition of what was once the longest arch bridge in Canada, the old Port Mann Bridge.  George is a 2014 IGEN graduate who completed 16 months of co-op work terms with Kiewit, while Don is a 1987 Civil graduate who has been with Kiewit for 28 years in positions ranging from field engineer to project sponsor.
Don explained the project background, detailing the general layout of the site and specific differences about the Port Mann site that made it a more challenging project to work on. George presented a step-by-step breakdown of the demolition process, explaining the reverse engineering that was required along the way.  He described how the main arch was removed by cutting it into segments and bracing the structure as pieces were removed first from the middle and then working out towards the supports.  Don and George concluded the presentation by answering questions about the project, and providing career advice based on their own experiences.
DSC_0613The UBC CSCE Student Chapter would like to thank George Toews and Don Jacobsen for taking the time   to share their knowledge and experience on this project. We would also like to thank Jason Block for his help in making this event possible as well as for his continued support of the Chapter.

Event Coordinator: Fahmid Islam

DSC_0524The CSCE Student Chapter organized a tour the Vancouver International Airport to get a closer look at the new A/B Connector Project. Bowinn Ma, an engineer involved in the project, led the tour along with the help of 5 other YVR Employees. They were able to provide insights throughout the tour as they all had a first-hand experience on the project from the beginning until the end.

The tour started at a new Domestic Terminal atrium where Nancy Stern—an in-house architect—pointed out the thematic aspects of design. The group was guided through the mechanical rooms for that particular section of the terminal and the students were able to appreciate the nature of the mechanical, electrical, and air circulation system. The tour also provided the chance to view a section of the baggage backbone system at the Vancouver International Airport and understand the complexities of such an intricate system. The UBC CSCE Student Chapter would like to thank YVR for their hospitality, time, and effort which ensured the success of this tour.

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