On July 14 at the 4th Annual Awards Dinner we had a chance to review the myriad of events that occurred over the 2009-2010 officer year. This was a rough year for mechanical engineering in Las Vegas due to budgetary issues at UNLV and the loss of the Yucca Mountain Project. While some UNLV colleges, such as the law college, where not up for consideration of significant cuts, the college of engineering was being considered for both small cuts and complete removal. While engineers are not normally great protestors, pro-engineering T-Shirts were made and a symbolic protest march was held March 5th from the engineering building to the student union. I walked beside fellow UNLV graduate David Swallow and chanted “Save our Future, Save Engineering.” For those of you who may not have attended the dinner, I can tell you that I am not well suited for protest marches. At the event, there was even a child being pulled in a wagon that had a sign reading “future engineer.” Dean Eric Sandgren and his department worked hard to build the educational and fiscal case for why engineering is so important to southern Nevada. In the end, the computer engineering Informatics program was the largest casualty, with most other engineering programs remaining intact. Dean Sandgren was also a casualty of this budgetary clash and ended up stepping down from his position as Dean.
During this time, our local section was wrestling with new bylaws in order to create a better structure and future for our society. The original bylaws were long lost and we were feeling a bit disorganized by not having formal positions and duties. The new bylaws went into effect March 1, 2010 and feature a Board of Directors who help advise the section as well as acting as a nominating committee for officer positions. Check out the “executive committee” link on the toolbar above to see the list of current officers and directors. Beyond bylaws, our section had a year filled with great tours, such as the Reid Gardner Coal Plant and Hoover Dam. We also held two joint meetings with fellow technical societies (ANS, AACE, HPS, and INCOSE) where the focus was energy production and emissions. At these meetings, we had a chance to meet commissioner Rebecca Wagner of the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada and Dr. James Conca, the Director of the New Mexico State University Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center.
After reviewing the events of the past year, Marcus Jenson, Engineer Director of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, provided a great keynote speech about Las Vegas’s water issues. The presentation included many interesting pictures of the 3rd straw water intake project, that was a currently a bit flooded, but moving forward to ensure adequate water supply to Las Vegas. Imagine drilling a 23-foot-tall tunnel through 3 miles of solid rock. Now imagine doing it beneath the bed of the nation’s largest man-made reservoir. The finished, 20-foot diameter intake pipe will allow the Southern Nevada Water Authority to draw water from Lake Mead even if the surface drops another 90 feet. It also will give access to the deepest part of the lake, where the coolest, cleanest water is found.
Student Essay Award
The event concluded with three awards being received. The first award was presented to Daniel Sigler for the student essay award competition. Students were invited to submit essays regarding their thoughts on the outsourcing of production and whether it was envisioned that manufacturing may be returning to the United States. Dan, the current UNLV Student Section Chair, indicated that he had joined the essay competition in an effort to get other students interested and graciously donated his $300 prize to the ASME student section to help them with upcoming activities.
ASME Silver State Volunteer Award
Kevin Nelson was awarded the Outstanding ASME Silver State Volunteer award. Kevin has been an officer for 3 years, consistently participates in planning and executive meetings, and can be relied upon to complete needed tasks in a timely manner. Additionally, Kevin volunteered his time to support the FIRST Robotics regional event at the Thomas and Mack, and even spent a couple of weekends helping the students at the Southwest Career and Technical Academy (SWCTA) high school get their robot’s circuitry and programming up and running. This was the first year SWCTA had participated in the event and the students were serious novices at robot building and it meant quite a bit to have Kevin support them (and I also appreciated Kevin’s help as I was a mentor for the SWCTA robotic team).
Southern Nevada Engineering Achievement Award
The final award, which is the most prestigious award our section presents, is the Southern Nevada Engineering Achievement Award. This award may be given to an individual, a group, or a company that has made significant technical contributions to mechanical engineering and/or has helped promote the profession of mechanical engineering within Southern Nevada. This year was the first year the award was presented to a corporation, with the award being given to National Security Technologies, LLC (Also known as NSTec). This company manages Operations at the Nevada Test Site and its laboratories and related facilities for the Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration, Nevada Site Office. NSTec has several employees who serve on Engineering Advisory Boards, hires and mentors many scientists and engineers for summer internships, endows an engineering and scholarship program that has awarded forty-one $5,000 scholarships to deserving Clark County high school graduates, hires graduates, has contributed over $500,000 to the UNLV College of Engineering, sponsors the FIRST Competition, provides speakers and masters of ceremony for awards ceremonies, supports senior design, and otherwise promotes the engineering discipline in the community. Congratulations NSTec!
My wrap-up of the awards dinner and the year would not be complete without thanking everyone who supported or attended an ASME event this past year. You help to breathe life into our silver state section and local engineering community!