Brian L. Schull, PE | PSPE 2020 Engineer of the Year

The Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers is proud to award Brian L. Schull, PE, PSPE 2020 Engineer of the Year. The PSPE State Engineer of the Year Award publicly recognizes outstanding engineers based on criteria including professional achievements, civic, political, engineering and educational contributions.

Brian is currently Assistant Department Manager in Construction Management with SAI Consulting Engineers in Pittsburgh, PA, where he has been employed for over 30 years.  Brian has both his Bachelor and Master of Science Degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.

Brian has managed construction projects for the PA Turnpike, PennDOT, Allegheny County Airport Authority, Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, and the Port Authority of Allegheny County, among others.  Before working at SAI, he was employed by PennDOT District 1-0, WS Mocha, and TW Consultants.

Notable Projects include Brookline Boulevard and Rehabilitation, ALCOSAN Customer Service and Training Facility, Summerset at Frick Park Nine Mile Run Land Development, North Baggage Handling System Building, Martin Luther King Jr. East Busway Extension, Pittsburgh International Airport, and Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting/Training Center.

Brian has been very active with PSPE and the Pittsburgh Chapter.  He has held many Chapter positions:

  • 2006 to 2009 – Director
  • 2009 to 2010 – Vice-President
  • 2010 to 2011 – President Elect
  • 2011 to 2012 – President
  • 2012 to 2013 – Immediate Past-President
  • 2017 to Present – Executive Secretary

Brian has been involved with the Chapter’s Newsletter, MATHCOUNTS, and Awards Committee.  He has received the L.W. Hornfleck Dedicated Service Award and the Silvio Lorenzi President’s Gold Star Award.

Brian is a member of many other professional and technical societies, including Association for Bridge Construction and Design, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Highway Engineers, SPEO, and the University of Pittsburgh Civil Engineering Alumni Club.

Brian is an Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America Troop 25), Order of the Arrow, a summer camp counselor and Leader.  Brian has also been involved with both the Rocky Grove Church of God and Rocky Grove High School choral, Orchestral, Choral, and Alumni Bands.

Michelle L. Hinds, PE | PSPE 2020 Young Engineer of the Year

PSPE is proud to recognize Michelle L. Hinds, PE, as Young Engineer of the Year. Criteria for selection as PSPE Young Engineer of the Year includes: Be age 35 or under as of January 1; be a Registered Professional Engineer or Engineer in Training; PSPE membership preferred but not required; Scholastic achievements; Technical society activities; Technical papers and patents; Professional society activities; Engineering experience and accomplishments; and Civic and humanitarian activities.

Michelle has a BS in Civil Engineering from the Pennsylvania State University and an MS in Engineering Management from Robert Morris University.  She is a registered Professional Engineer in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.  Michelle is a Project Manager for Construction Services at SAI Consulting Engineers, Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA.  She has been with SAI for 14 years starting as a transportation construction inspector and now providing construction management for heavy highway and bridge projects ranging from $800,000 to $120,000,000.  Michelle has provided construction management and inspection services to many clients, including PennDOT, PA Turnpike, Allegheny County Department of Public Works, The Sports and Exhibition Authority, the Allegheny County Airport Authority, Washington County Planning Commission, Westmoreland County Department of Public Works, City of Pittsburgh, and various other local municipalities.

Notable projects Michelle has worked on include the SR 19-A63 project, which involved the SPMT move of the Shaler Street Bridge (she served as scheduler); the SR 601 bridge over the PA Turnpike in Somerset (served as Project Manager); the Lower Hill Redevelopment (former Civic Arena Site) where she served as Project Manager; the South 10th Street Bridge Rehabilitation and the Hulton Bridge Replacement. Michelle also works in conjunction with SAI’s design department building pre-bid construction schedules and performing constructability reviews.  Michelle is an active member of WTS Pittsburgh Chapter and the Chartiers Valley Hockey Club.

PSPE will celebrate Michelle’s award with her on Friday evening, September 25, 2020, as part of the PSPE 2020 Conference (virtual).

ACEC-PA, AIA-PA and NSPE-PA Apply for Waiver

ACEC-PA, AIA-PA, and NSPE-PA Apply for Waiver

Knowing that licensed design professionals play a critical role in life-sustaining businesses, we reached out to both the Governor and DCED seeking an exemption to Governor Wolf’s Order mandating closure of businesses not considered life-sustaining.

Individual firms have applied through DCED for their specific situations as well. Some received clarification that they are already exempt; some have received no response to date. As of Friday, March 27, over 25,000 applications had been received and were in the review process.

If we get official word that architectural and engineering businesses are exempt, we will certainly share.

View a copy of the letter.

Report of the PSPE Nominating Committee 2020

The 2020 Nominating Committee confirms the following slate of officer nominees for the PSPE 2020-2021 term of office.

Susan L. Best, PE (Delaware County Chapter) will become President according to the PSPE Constitution and Bylaws.

Nominees:

President Elect | Jennifer Nolan-Kremm, PE (Pittsburgh Chapter)

Secretary | David J. Briskey, PE (Pittsburgh Chapter)

Treasurer | Thomas J. Friese, PE (Philadelphia Chapter)

Vice President Northeast Region | Marleen A. Troy, Ph.D., PE, BCEE (Keystone Northeast)

Vice President Southeast Region | Nicole C. Wilson, PE (Bucks County Chapter)

Vice President Western Region | Kirk L. Thompson, PE (Pittsburgh Chapter)

Vice President Central Region | Michael C. Poletti, PE (Lincoln Chapter)

For members wishing to add their name to the ballot, nominations by petition of at least 25 eligible members must be delivered (along with the candidate’s bio and photo) to the Chair of the Nomination Committee by May 1, 2020.

In the event of there being two (2) nominees for an office, an official ballot shall be prepared and delivered to each voting member in the region of the office. The Tellers Committee will tally the votes and determine the final outcome.

In the event of a single nominee in each position and with no petition candidates submitted, the Secretary shall be directed by the President to cast a single ballot for all nominees upon acceptance of the Nominating Committee’s report by the Board at the meeting on May 30, 2020.

PSPE officers will be installed at the 2020 Professional Engineers Conference, August 12–16, in Philadelphia. This year’s conference is a partnership between NSPE and Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers. Both organizations will honor awardees and install officers on Friday evening, August 14, at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown.

Respectfully submitted,
Steven J. Novotny, PE
PSPE 2020-21 Nominating Committee Chair

John R. Ackerman, PE | PSPE 2019 Engineer of the Year

John R. Ackerman, PE
PSPE 2019 Engineer of the Year

The Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers is proud to award John R. Ackerman, PE as PSPE 2019 Engineer of the Year. The PSPE State Engineer of the Year Award publically recognizes outstanding engineers based on criteria including professional achievements, civic, political, engineering and educational contributions. 

John Ackerman is a proven leader in multiple disciplines focused on water and wastewater treatment.  He wears two hats, managing principal at Twin Oaks Consulting, LLC., and president at his start-up, Twin Oaks Water Systems, Inc. where he hopes to provide a sustainable method to supply water to the world’s population.

Mr. Ackerman has extensive experience in water and wastewater treatment designing numerous treatment facilities and troubleshooting treatment process as well as the remediation of hazardous wastes ranging from development of air stripping technology to site remediation of BTEX and metals contaminated groundwater at multiple SUPERFUND sites and AMD treatment facilities.  He holds two patents for treatment equipment.

He serves and has served on numerous advisory commissions and boards, both locally and statewide, including serving as chairman of PADEP’s Certification Program Advisory Committee for the first 16 years of its 19-year existence.

In addition to holding multiple leadership positions culminating in PSPE President, 2000-01, and Penn-Anthracite Chairman, 5 terms, awards and recognitions have followed Mr. Ackerman throughout his career. Starting with Young EOY (SME/AIME 1983 and PSPE 1986); EOY (Luzerne Chapter, PSPE, 1993-94; Keystone Northeast Chapter, PSPE, 2018-19),  being named “Diplomate” (AAEE, 1989), Fellow (NSPE, 2005), awarded “Best Value in Green Engineering” for his innovative RainMaker water harvester (ASCE’s Innovation Contest, 2017) and receiving the 2018 EOY from the Lehigh Valley Section, ASCE.

Mr. Ackerman received his bachelor’s degree in The Earth Sciences (Geology), 1975 from The Pennsylvania State University and is a licensed Professional Engineer and Professional Geologist in Pennsylvania.

John and Margi are the proud parents of their two successful children, Matthew and Rachel.

Brian Palmiter, Jr., EIT, LEED Green Associate | 2019 PSPE State Young Engineer of the Year

Brian Palmiter, Jr. EIT

PSPE 2019 Young Engineer of the Year

PSPE is proud to recognize Brian Palmiter, Jr., EIT, as PSPE 2019 Young Engineer of the Year. Criteria for selection as PSPE Young Engineer of the Year includes: Be age 35 or under as of January 1, 2017; be a Registered Professional Engineer or Engineer in Training; PSPE membership preferred but not required; Scholastic achievements; Technical society activities; Technical papers and patents; Professional society activities; Engineering experience and accomplishments; and Civic and humanitarian activities.

Mr. Palmiter is a Civil Designer and Project Manager with Borton-Lawson (BL), an engineering and architecture firm headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Brian has been with BL for over 5 years, where he has worked in both the Water/Municipal and Land Planning & Design Groups. This has put him in a diverse role to perform design and more recently project management services for a variety of clients, including municipalities, colleges/universities, and other public and private entities. He is well-versed in the land development and municipal sphere, having design experience in stormwater, roadway paving, Best Management Practice (BMP), parks/recreation, and building/parking expansion-related projects.

He is currently the Project Manager for approximately 50 municipal projects, including paving and stormwater projects, subdivision and land development reviews, and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4) permitting. Most recently, Brian was a key contributor in obtaining a new client, which has allowed BL to become the Program Manager for a stormwater authority that is implementing a MS4 Pollution Reduction Plan (PRP) across the Authority’s 32-municipality service area. The project also includes collaboration with the client and 7 other engineering firms, BMP project scope and service order execution, design, bidding, and construction services. Some of Brian’s other professional experience includes site layout, Erosion & Sedimentation Pollution Control (E&SPC) design, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting, Highway Occupancy Permits (HOPs), and construction inspection.

Brian is in the Keystone Northeast Chapter of PSPE, where he currently serves as the Secretary of the Chapter. Brian’s role with the Chapter is ever-growing, as he plans and coordinates many of the Chapter events and assists in the development of future engineers through mentoring and networking with the Wilkes University Student Chapter of PSPE. He is the Chair of the Young Engineers Committee and received the Robert P. Eble PE, PLS Memorial Distinguished Service Award in 2015. Within the last few years, he has elevated his involvement with PSPE at the State level, serving on the Membership, Nominating, and Conference Planning Committees. Brian has also been involved with State MATHCOUNTS since 2014, where he has moved up from a volunteer, to Facilities Coordinator, to Assistant Coordinator, and is currently the State Coordinator, which he will be through March 2021.

In 2013, Brian graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Engineering with a minor in Geology from Wilkes University. While at Wilkes, he assisted in the creation of the Wilkes Student Chapter and volunteered with many other University clubs. He still maintains his involvement with his alma mater, as he is on the Wilkes University Alumni Association Board of Directors, of which he was elected to in early 2017. Brian is also a volunteering member with the Wyoming Valley United Way Young Professionals and is a guitarist with the St. Gregory’s Music Ministry in Clarks Summit, PA. In his free time, Brian enjoys spending time with his family, friends, church community, and beautiful puppy “Luna.” He plays in several soccer leagues and is a diehard fan of the Denver Broncos and Boston Red Sox.

The Ring Goes South…

Eric W. Tappert, PE

Last time we learned how a simple ring on the little finger of the working hand gave international recognition to the public oath that was taken. The Canadian tradition, dating back to 1925, of a ritual ceremony where engineering graduates take an oath of ethical behavior and responsibility for the public health, safety, and welfare has emerged as being more important to engineering graduates than getting their diploma. The ring is worn with pride by all who receive it.

In the 1960’s interest in promoting the ethical practice of engineering by having a ring ceremony similar to the Canadian tradition stirred some interest. The very first US ring ceremony was held at the Fenn College of Engineering at Cleveland State University on June 4, 1970. Due to copyright reasons, they could not use the “Ritual Calling of an Engineer” by Rudyard Kipling, but a similar “obligation” and ceremony was used. The Order was incorporated in Ohio in 1972.

There are a few differences between the Order of the Engineer and the Canadian tradition besides the actual ceremony. In the US the ceremony is public, and attendance is not limited to the inductees and ring holders. Instead of “camps” the US version has “Links”, of which there are currently more than 300, many at Universities, but some are at various engineering organizations such as PSPE (Link 230). Some of PSPE’s student chapters also have their own links.

The fact that PSPE has a link highlights another difference, getting a ring is not limited to engineering graduates. Any engineer with an ABET Engineering Accreditation Commission accredited degree is eligible. In fact, many engineering organizations, including PSPE, hold regular ring ceremonies. The Order has no dues, in fact the only charge is a nominal amount for the stainless steel ring which is placed during the ceremony on the little finger of the working hand to constantly remind the recipient of their obligation.

The formal ceremony starts with a brief history of the Order, followed by the new inductees being presented. The inductees and members of the Order then recite the Obligation together. Each inductee then signs their copy of the Obligation that they have just made (suitable for framing…) and places their working hand through a large ceremonial ring to receive their ring. The ring serves as a constant reminder of your obligation and indicates to the public that you have made a commitment to the honorable and ethical practice of your profession. As the ceremony is formal, no pictures are allowed, but there is always a picture session afterwards.

The Obligation is a creed similar to Hippocrates Oath taken by medical doctors to set forth an ethical code. It is based on the Canon of Ethics of major engineering societies. Inductees accept this Obligation voluntarily, pledging to uphold the standards and dignity of the engineering profession and to serve humanity by making the best use of Earth’s precious wealth. Full details of the ceremony and Obligation are on the Order’s web site (http://www.order-of-the-engineer.org/).

PSPE holds a ring ceremony every year at the annual conference and has assisted several engineering schools in ring ceremonies, some of which resulted in the formation of new Links. A ceremony will be held at the next annual conference in Bethlehem this September (see details below) and it will use a new ceremonial ring, generously donated by Penn Stainless in Quakertown. It is an ideal opportunity to re-affirm your obligation to uphold the standards of the engineering profession. And just maybe sometime in your travels you’ll be asked if you are Canadian! Better yet, maybe you’ll be recognized for your commitment to the ethical practice of your profession. See you there!

If you would like to join the Order of the Engineer, PSPE is holding a ceremony on Thursday, September 19, 2019, during our annual conference. Register for the full conference, the day, or simply lunch and the ceremony. Indicate your ring size and we’ll see you there. Details can be found here. We look forward to seeing you!

“Sir, are you Canadian?”

By Eric W. Tappert, PE

That was the question from across the dinner table at an IEEE meeting that I was attending.  For those not familiar with the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), it is the largest technical professional organization in the world with more than 423,000 members around the world.  At the table were engineers from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, South Africa, and Australia.  That, in itself, was a very satisfying experience.  But the question directed at me was a bit confusing, so I responded with an admission that I was from the United States and asked what prompted the question.  The answer: “I saw your ring.”

So I explained that it wasn’t the Canadian ring, but rather the Order of the Engineer ring from south of the border.  He held up his hand and with some pride showing and said “My ring is the Canadian version.”  That led to a lively discussion of the ring that fascinated the others at the table.  So, what’s with the ring?

The story of the Canadian engineers’ ring goes back nearly a century.  Professor H. E. T. Hamilton of the University of Toronto convinced another six past president’s of the Engineering Institute of Canada that something needed to be done to generate a ceremony and a standard of ethics for graduating engineers in the country.  The seven past presidents wrote a letter in 1922 to Rudyard Kipling, a famous poet and author, requesting him to write the ceremony and the “obligation” that the students would commit to.  The result was the “Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer”.   It should be noted that Kipling had a few years earlier toured the railways of Canada and was very impressed with engineering.

“The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with the simple end of directing the young engineer towards a consciousness of his profession and its significance, and indicating to the older engineer his responsibilities in receiving, welcoming and supporting the young engineers in their beginnings.”

— Rudyard Kipling, from notes by Dr. J. Jeswiet

The first ceremony at the University of Toronto on May 1, 1925, led by three of the engineers installed at the inaugural ceremony a few days before in Montreal.  The University of Toronto became the first chapter. 

During the ceremony, initiates recite and accept the obligation, which resembles a code of ethics.  The ceremony isn’t a “secret”, but those receiving and having the ring are admonished not to discuss the ceremony.  The ceremony is also limited in attendance to those already having the ring and the initiates, thus it is not a “public” event.  Each initiate receives a ring for the little finger of their working hand to signify they have accepted the obligation and to serve as a constant reminder of their responsibilities.  When they retire from active engineering, they return their ring to the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, which holds the rights and has the duty to carry out the ritual.

The Corporation of the Seven Wardens is divided into 26 regional branches, called Camps.  The term Camp is used to instill as sense of a smaller, close knit community.  The purpose of the obligation is to direct the newly qualified engineer toward a consciousness of the profession and its social significance and indicating to the more experienced engineer their responsibilities in welcoming and supporting the newer engineers when they are ready to enter the profession.

The original rings were made of iron, but that has been supplanted by stainless steel.  Only one Camp still has the iron ring as an option.  There are a couple of interesting legends about the Ritual.  One says that the idea was prompted by the failure, during construction, of the bridge over the Saint Lawrence River at Quebec City in 1907.  There may be some truth to that, but one must take into account that during the first couple decades of the 19th century the Canadians were building their transcontinental railroad system.  Bridges were apparently failing rather often and the Quebec Bridge was merely a very dramatic example as there were a total of 75 lives lost.  It is more likely that it played “the straw that broke the camel’s back” role.  The other legend is that the first rings were made from the iron of the failed bridge at Quebec City.  That bridge failed in 1907 but the first ceremony wasn’t held until 1925.  It truly stretches the imagination that the ruins of the bridge hadn’t been recycled in the intervening 18 years.

Canadian engineering students look forward to getting their rings in the spring term of their senior year.  In fact, many view the ring as more important than their diploma.  Kipling’s ceremony continues to this day, binding together the engineers of Canada.  Getting a ring doesn’t enable legal engineering practice as that is the province of the government authorities.  Participating in Kipling’s ceremony, virtually unchanged in almost a century, does however, lead to a close community of ethical engineers.

Next time: The Ring Goes South

If you would like to join the Order of the Engineer, PSPE is holding a ceremony on Thursday, September 19, 2019, during our annual conference. Register for the full conference, the day, or simply lunch and the ceremony. Indicate your ring size and we’ll see you there. Details can be found here. We look forward to seeing you!

Report of the PSPE Nominating Committee 2019

The 2019 Nominating Committee confirms the following slate of officer nominees for the PSPE 2019-2020 term of office. Michael F. Basta, PE (Lehigh Valley Chapter) will become President according to the PSPE Constitution and Bylaws. 

Nominees:

President Elect | Susan L. Best, PE (Delaware County Chapter)

Secretary | David J. Briskey, PE (Pittsburgh Chapter)

Treasurer | Thomas J. Friese, PE (Philadelphia Chapter)

Vice President Central Region | James M. DiLouie, PE (Lincoln Chapter)

Vice President Southwest Region | Jennifer Nolan-Kremm, PE (Pittsburgh Chapter)

Vice President Northeast Region | Marleen A. Troy, Ph.D., PE, BCEE (Keystone Northeast)

Vice President Southeast Region | Nicole C. Wilson, PE (Bucks County Chapter)

For members wishing to add their name to the ballot, nominations by petition of at least 25 eligible members must be delivered (along with the candidate’s bio and photo) to the Chair of the Nomination Committee by May 6, 2019.

In the event of there being two (2) nominees for an office, an official ballot shall be prepared and delivered to each voting member in the region of the office. The Tellers Committee will tally the votes and determine the final outcome.

In the event of a single nominee in each position and with no petition candidates submitted, the Secretary shall be directed by the President to cast a single ballot for all nominees upon acceptance of the Nominating Committee’s report by the Board at the meeting on May 18, 2019.

The elected officers will be installed at the annual conference September 19-20, 2019.

Respectfully submitted,
Joseph F. Boward, PE, F.NSPE
PSPE 2019-20 Nominating Committee Chair

Ethics: The Principles of Conduct Governing an Individual or a Group

Ethics: The Principles of Conduct Governing an Individual or a Group
Susan K. Sprague, PE, F.NSPE, Chair, NSPE Board of Ethical Review

Every profession has ethics – doctors and lawyers, dance teachers, retailers, and car salesmen – and each discipline of engineers has a similar code of ethics emphasizing protection of the public. The code has evolved over the years to include sustainable development and anti-discrimination principles, and it essentially covers all aspects of professional practice and guides the PE for prioritizing actions when dealing with the public, clients, and employers.

The National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) established the Board of Ethical Review (BER) in 1954 to further its mission as the authoritative expert in the ethical practice in engineering. The purpose of the BER is to render impartial opinions pertaining to the interpretation of the NSPE Code of Ethics, develop materials, and conduct studies relating to ethics of the engineering profession. The engineering profession’s emphasis on ethics dates to the end of the 19th century. In 1946, NSPE released its Canons of Ethics for Engineers and Rules of Professional Conduct, which evolved into the current Code of Ethics. While these statements of general principles served as a guide, many engineers requested interpretations of how the Canons and Rules would apply to specific circumstances. These requests ultimately led to the creation of the BER. Ethics cases rarely have easy answers, but the BER’s nearly 700 advisory opinions have helped bring clarity to the ethical issues that engineers face daily.

Every year, the BER publishes 12 cases to be used by its members, other engineers, attorneys, and educators as guides for ethical conduct. NSPE members are appointed to serve on the BER and use their expertise to render impartial opinions on questions of ethics.

On December 5 and 6, I had the unique privilege of chairing the six-member NSPE Board of Ethical Review at NSPE headquarters in Alexandria, VA in the face-to-face discussions of 12 cases involving engineering ethics. The BER is seven professional engineers from across the country (PA, NH, FL, NM, WA, IN, and SD). Two members are ethics professors, three are in private practices, and two are in government positions. Being the Chair is an honor, and it comes with very few perks. We received the cases a few weeks prior to the meeting and we had homework to do to prepare. Some cases are real (submitted by members), but most are hypothetical. Each of us was assigned two cases to lead in our meeting.

The review of the cases is a methodical process conducted “old school” by the case leader reading the case facts and conclusion out loud to the group. It’s amazing how hearing the facts and listening to it being read can offer you a different perspective on the case.

We all take turns offering our opinions and we discuss the merits and ethical conflicts in each case. Do we agree with the conclusion? Were Engineer A’s actions ethical? What were Engineer A’s ethical obligations under the circumstances? Are the cited references from the Code of Ethics applicable to the case? Sometimes we finish discussing a case and reach consensus in 25 minutes, and a few have taken over 90 minutes to reach consensus.

You may ask how someone can find an opinion on an issue. The cases are cross-referenced by topic and the portions of the Code cited. For example, if you are interested in cases pertaining to reviewing another engineer’s work, changing employment, autonomous vehicles, etc., you can search under those topics. All published cases recognize the committee members, so my name is recorded on 24 cases and will be noted as Chair on this year’s 12 cases.

It’s a great experience to participate in something important to the profession and provide useful guidance to others. Sadly, both professors on our committee have observed their engineering students cheating on their school exams in ethics (they have video proof), so we still have much work to do to teach the next generation of engineers about ethics.

Test your individual knowledge of the language in the NSPE Code of Ethics by taking a quiz – a series of true/false questions.