Supporting Discover Engineering Family Day in D.C.

In support of Engineers Week, the D.C. Metro Community Investment team participated in our second annual Discover Engineering Family Day event at the National Building Museum in late February. Our exhibit was entitled “Waterway Shipping in the 21st Century” and featured a small prototype of a canal lock system using a fish tank, supply piping and a pump to simulate transit of vessels through the chambers of the Panama Canal. The children constructed small boats using aluminum foil and tested the lock system as we filled the chambers to lift the boats from one chamber to the next.

Thanks to Alicia Johns, Jason Cawrse, Daniel Carawan, Kim Watkins, Emily Grenzke, Andy Bogdanski, Dan Lavoie, Dorian Hemming, Keisha Voigt and Scott Weikert for their hard work in sharing buoyancy principles and lock operation with some 9,100 attendees at the event.

This event was featured in the March 10, 2013 Washington Post Kid’s Post section in a story focusing on a local Girls Excelling in Math and Science (GEMS) program which is closely aligned with CH2M HILL’s emphasis on STEM events.

Trebuchet Toss in San Antonio

By Judith Ibarra-Bianchetta, PE, CFM
CH2M HILL South Texas Area Manager who wears multiple hats with the firm, including Project Manger and Operations Lead. She entered the field of engineering because of events similar to EWeek’s Engineer for the Day program and feels passionately about giving back to the community. 

I was part of a local office team that hosted 10 students from a local STEM high school for the day- all very interested in becoming engineers. We took them on a tour of a wastewater treatment plant that recycles and uses sustainable design principles as part of the everyday functioning of the plant.

Afterwards, we brought the students to our office to hear presentations from different engineers in the office which included their “words of wisdom.” The students all asked fascinating questions, including: Do you travel much?  Do you move up quicker in the private or public fields? How much money do you make (which is pretty much a regular question year-after-year).

The students turned these materials into a Trebuchet.

The presenters talked about the importance of teamwork. So with that, we broke the students into groups of four for a Trebuchet Toss competition by which the students had to build a Trebuchet from everyday household items. The contest was judged by who could land a marshmallow in the pie crust taking into account both accuracy and length. The interesting part of the competition was listening to the different teams discuss their strategy. In their high school, their teachers place them as a project manager, schedule manager or a technical lead. So naturally, they formed teams according to who was their friend not considering their possible team strengths – maybe because their teacher wasn’t around to tell them! Anyhow, the team that took the longest to complete the challenge and really wasn’t able to launch the marshmallow at all was the team that consisted of all project managers – all telling each other what to do. The team that was first to complete the challenge and launch the marshmallow accurately had a good mix of abilities. Imagine that!

Listening to them discuss their plan of attack and their conversations always reminds me of the good old days of being in high school and not really knowing what the future holds. Now that I look back at that time it makes participating in these events even more of a priority for me to continue to be involved and influence the young students about continuing in math and science related studies. They really need all the encouragement they can get. Majority of the students that participate in this program are very interested during the day and of course there are a couple that are just happy to be out of school for the day.  But for the most part, the students have difficultly leaving the office and want to continue to interact with us – with some students even some asking for a job. The students asking questions make me think that the time I have spent with them has been influential and beneficial to them. This brings me a lot of energy and fuels me to continue to keep participating in the program as these programs were instrumental for me to become an engineer in first place.


Building water filtration systems in Georgia

Since 1997 CH2M HILL has supported the National Engineers Week’s Foundation (EWeek) as the firm’s flagship science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education outreach program. Each February hundreds of employees from CH2M HILL offices across North America volunteer their time to serve as mentors, teachers, and judges in a variety of activities, including engineering competitions, technology and science fairs, classroom presentations, hands-on activities, and project site visits. By engaging students in activities that help them understand how science, math, and technology can be used to solve real world problems and make a difference in society, CH2M HILL is helping to inspire the next generation of engineers.

Inspiring the next generation at Radloff Middle School in Georgia

Check out videos of students at Radloff Middle School in Georgia making their own water filtration system during an EWeek event. Read what students took away from this engineering lesson at Thanks Frank Destadio, a program manager in our water group, for representing CH2M HILL to help inspire the next generation!

Inspiring future leaders in the Buckeye state

By Jamie Decker, PE

CH2M HILL Civil Engineer and Project Manager for Water Business Group – Asset Management

CH2M HILL provided 12 volunteers to the Ohio Regional Future City competition this year. Volunteers included members of the our water, environmental and operations management groups who helped with tasks such as the preliminary, special award and final round judging as well as timekeeping and general coordination of the Ohio event. Three people from the Columbus office also had the privilege of mentoring two schools in Ohio: Columbus Buckeye Middle School and Westerville Walnut Springs Middle School (I was lucky to help mentor both schools). Employees in our Cincinnati office were also able to help Batavia Middle School by answering some engineering questions and setting up a tour of a Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati wastewater treatment plant.

Future City has provided a great opportunity for me to contribute to my community and make an impact for the next generation of engineers. Being a mentor, it was incredible to see the light bulb go on for many students as they learned and better understood different engineering principles such as structural design, stormwater management, water treatment and sustainability. I was truly amazed at the creativity and depth of knowledge of the middle school students at the regional competition!

Volunteers also appreciated the opportunity to participate and had a great time. Kenna Coltman, PE and an environmental compliance specialist with the CH2M HILL FSG GE Program in Ohio shared, “I truly enjoyed judging the special award. The kids were amazing and the work and imagination that went into some of the models was staggering. Next year I’m hoping to encourage a local team to allow me the privilege of becoming involved as an engineer mentor. I think it is a truly great program for promoting engineering as a career.”

Personally I had a great time and I am looking forward to helping out next year!


Providing multi-faceted support to Georgia competition

CH2M HILL served as a platinum sponsor for the Georgia Regional Future Cities competition held on January 26, 2013 at Southern Polytechnic State University. As one of the largest regional competitions, the Georgia event attracted 104 teams from 29 middle schools.

Employees were excited to support this event to inspire the next generation of innovators and city leaders with a total of 15 CH2M HILL employees from the Atlanta offices volunteering with the program through team mentoring, judging and volunteering the day of the competition.

“Both my wife, an interior designer, and I, an architect, volunteered for this event not knowing what we were getting ourselves into. It was a fun-filled morning that was not only enlightening but also educational. It is really amazing what middle school students learn these days. The student’s enthusiasm, thoughts, imagination and ideas for what a future city of 150 years out would be like were just amazing. It was a fun experience and we as architects, interior designers, engineers, and professionals should get more involved to support these children, after all they are The Children of the Future,” shared volunteer Jan Wisniewski.

Atlanta staff examine the model from Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell.

Cindy Miller, a mentor for a team from Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell, Georgia arranged for her team to meet CH2M HILL water engineers in the Atlanta office beforehand to present their city and prepare for the competition.




Close-up of the city model from Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell.

Special awards judging

CH2M HILL sponsored three awards at the competition: Most Holistic Approach, Best Research Essay and Best Management of Water Resources.

“As a special awards judge, I was able to meet the student competitors, witness their presentation skills, acknowledge the parents and proud coaches standing by and interact with members of my business group that I had not yet met. It always gives me amazing pride and delight to see the perseverance and experience the brilliance of each child – knowing that my future will be that much more sustainable with minds like that at the helm,” shared Maia Watkins.

Saint Theresa School received the award for Best Management of Water Resources.

“The experience of judging was very rewarding as a person and professionally. It was wonderful to witness students with such knowledge and enthusiasm around the technical aspects of city operations. I am looking forward to participating again next year,” said Tami Hamilin.


Proving real-world context at the finals

David Bell in the Water Business Group served as a finalist judge and spoke to the students prior to final judging about CH2M HILL and the importance of storm water management in city planning now and in the future.

“It was a great experience and very impressive to see the creative talent pool that is coming down the pipeline,” David said. “These kids are smart and can think very holistically about to how to solve complex problems. It was also great to see the teamwork involved to prepare their models and their presentations.”

Can’t volunteer at the competition, there are plenty of opportunities to support Future City

Employees also appreciated the opportunity to support Future City in advance of the final competition day. The city model and presentations are one and two of the five components, with the Virtual City Design, Research Essay (this year’s theme was Rethink Runoff), and City Narrative making up 190 of the total 400 possible points for each team.

The award for best research essay went to Snellville Middle School.

“As far as encouraging others, I would highlight that the role I played (as an essay and city narrative judge) allowed me to invest a handful of hours over a 2- to 3-week period at my convenience. It gives you the satisfaction of supporting the program without worrying whether it will fit into your schedule. The essays and narratives were very interesting and made me see the importance of exposing these young students to real issues and mentors who have science, technology and engineering experience,” said volunteer Frank Smith.

Engineer Nick Gritz added, “While acting as a judge for the SimCity models I was blown away by the amount of detail and design that went into the simulation. The students had to consider city zoning, different ways to generate power, and waste recycling.”

Thank you to all the Atlanta area employees who volunteered to support Future City:

  • Heather Bowman
  • Thomas Ross
  • Betty Wood
  • Susan Canon
  • Maia Watkins
  • Kevin Middlebrooks
  • Jan Wisniewski
  • Irene Nath
  • Nick Gritz
  • Frank Smith
  • David Bell
  • Paige Horton
  • Angela Barch
  • Tami Hanlin
  • Bethany Myers
  • Cindy Miller


Prepare as a Sixth Grader

By Edgar Ortusiastigue, CH2M HILL associate project manager

Edgar with a Future City

On January 19, I had the terrific opportunity to act as a judge for the Southern Nevada Regional Future City competition. The day started with a 2.5 hour drive from beautiful Barstow, Calif. to Las Vegas, Nev. The competition started with a kickoff celebration where the kids were reminded the main purpose of the event was to have fun and they had no reason to be nervous.

Judges hard at work assessing the city designs and models.

I was under the impression that I was going to have more than enough time to rank/judge/comment my 6 teams (almost 4 hours) but I was wrong! It was amazing to see these kids in action; they had all their design points covered from sustainability, safety, transportation, entertainment to energy and water consumption. One team started the presentation in a foreign language because their future city was location in France; it was amazing to witness the preparation that the kids put into this event. I was so impressed. There was one team that incorporated a “natural” water treatment plant with specific plants based on the climate of their city’s location. There was another team that incorporated a “safe” elementary school with bullet proof and high-tech sensor cameras due to the events in Newtown, Conn. It is an amazing opportunity to be part of these events as a volunteer; the kids really admire and want to be engineers or scientist. It was very gratifying to me when one student asked me if I would be willing to build a machine to eliminate all plastic bottles because they pollute his park. Everybody should volunteer in their local communities, it was a great way to network, support our company’s efforts and have fun. At the end, the 5-hour round-trip drive was definitely worth it. I was reminded that we need to be more creative, think outside our boundaries, prepare and lead as a sixth grader would in a Future City competition.

One of the student’s city models.










It’s Engineers Week, take this fun quiz

According to a 2012 survey by Manpower Inc., engineering ranked globally as the second most difficult jobs for employers to fill and engineering ranked no. 1 in the Americas. And, a recent survey by Harris Interactive found that 85 percent of kids say that they are not interested in a future engineering career.

The need to develop a robust talent pipeline of technical talent is a business imperative for CH2M HILL. That is why we have supported Engineers Week—taking place this week February 17-23—for more than 15 years as our flagship educational outreach program. Each year hundreds of CH2M HILL employees go into schools and after-school programs to share their passion for engineering and engage thousands of students across the country in fun, hands-on activities in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of engineers.

In celebration of EWeek, we invite you to test your knowledge on the outlook of the engineering industry and learn some fun facts about engineers at CH2M HILL through this EWeek quiz. Review the correct answers.

CH2M HILL mentored team from NYC advances to national finals

Students and judges hard at work on the regional competition day

On January 19, CH2M HILL mentors joined 6th, 7th and 8th grade students from Columbia Secondary School (CSS) – a math, science and engineering focused middle school in Harlem, at the SONY Wonder Technology Lab in the heart of mid-town Manhattan for the regional Future City competition. This was one of several regional competitions that CH2M HILL supported through its sponsorship of the  2013 National Engineers Week Foundation’s annual Future City Competition. The Competition is designed to spark 6th, 7th, and 8th grade student’s interest in science, technology and math through a fun, interactive challenge in which kids conceptualize, design and build cities of the future with guidance from professional folks from the A/E/C industry.

Sunshine City Winning Team Model

This year’s competition theme was, Rethink Runoff: Design Clean Solutions to Manage Stormwater Pollution. As a leading stormwater engineering firm, CH2M HILL had 10 New York City staff mentor middle school students at CSS. Beginning in October 2012, mentors supported students at CSS through in-class visits, lecturing on urban planning and stormwater management, and leading a hands-on exercise demonstrating basic infiltration principles. Volunteers also spent time reviewing and commenting on the student’s essays in the office. On January 19th, several CH2M HILL employees were on-hand to serve as judges at the New York City regional competition.

The dedication of mentors and volunteers paid off with multiple wins for CSS teams at the regional competition including:

- Best Stormwater Management Strategy, Sunshine City
- Most Futuristic Design, New Sugar City
- Best Airport System, Watergreen City
- Best Education System, New Sugar City

Sunshine City team wins 1st place at the NYC regionals

And a special congratulation goes out to the 1st place winners, ‘Sunshine City’, who advanced to the National Competition in Washington, D.C. during National Engineers Week 2013. Today the team was busy reconstructing their model for the final Students and judges hard at work on the regional competition daycompetition. Preliminary judging takes place on President’s Day with the final presentations and national winner crowned on February 19.

“Seeing the dedication, excitement, and ingenuity of the kids participating in Future Cities reminded me of my days as a student. It was participation in events like this that gave my education greater purpose and direction and ultimately led me to a career in engineering. It is so fun to have a chance to pay it forward and invest in the future of engineering,” said Kate Marney, project engineer and New York City Future City Mentor.


Another Great Year

Stacey Lamer, CH2M HILL, Future City Mentor

Team Tempestas Aqua: (from left back row) Luke Longren, Sophia Swanson, Elizabeth Zollner, Laura Phillips, Cailyn Zicker, Lily Kenn, and Jane Schinkel (not pictured).

The Great Plains Region Future City Competition was held at Kansas State University on Saturday, January 25, 2013 with 62 teams in attendance. Team Tempestas Aqua from West Middle School in Lawrence, Kansas fared well despite the illness of a speech team member on competition day. Their narrative was ranked 1st. And they received the Mother Earth Award for a design that had the most innovative concept for improving the environment. Check out their poster: CCC Poster 20×30.

The winning team, Manh Me Re from Deer Creek Middle School in Littleton, Colorado, will represent the Great Plains Region in Washington on February 15–20, 2013.

CH2M HILL’s Most Holistic City Award went to Team Hydration Nation from Yeokum Middle School in Belton, Missouri.

On another exciting note, the Southwest Middle School Future City Team from Lawrence, Kansas participated in the CH2M HILL sponsored Rain Barrel Workshop. Their efforts during the Great Plains Region Future City competition were recognized on Channel 6 on February 3, 2013.

Team Tempestas receiving the Mother Earth Award.

TEMPESTAS AQUA Team’s City Narrative In the early 21st century a small community in Ireland was struggling to manage runoff. Now, in the year 2162, that same community is one of the most advanced cities in the world. Tempestas Aqua (Latin for stormwater), is named after the very element that had caused a severe economic decline in the past.

Tempestas Aqua is a beautiful city off the coast of Ventry Bay, a small harbor in County Kerry, Ireland. This 150 year old city has a population of 8,000 people with a median age of 33 years old. It is known for its beautiful seaside, ranging from dramatic cliffs to stunning beaches. Tempestas Aqua is a popular destination for swimming, surfing, and sailing, as well as a resting spot for seals and other aquatic animals.

Tempestas Aqua Model

Because of Tempestas Aqua’s beautiful landscape and archeological ruins, it is a popular tourist city. People flock from all over the world to see the Dunbeg, an Iron Age defense fort, and the 1650’s Knight of Kerry Rahinnane Castle. These historic sites are married with unique current-day infrastructure that is built to be energy efficient while also adding to the natural beauty of the nearby Mount Eagle by incorporating biomimicry. Almost every structure is built with natural limestone, which is the native rock in that area. Dingle Peninsula is one of the few areas in the world where Gaelic is still spoken—a key reason why this isolated community has maintained its rural heritage while embracing new technological advances.The CCC (Condensation Collection Canopy), Sky Generator, and PARA (Piezoelectric Air Redirection Array) were developed by forward-thinking engineers to provide water management and clean energy for the entire city. The CCC is a radar-activated, nearly-invisible net that collects precipitation above the city and funnels it to the Sky Generator, a high-tech hydropower plant that achieves near 100% efficiency. The excessive rainfall that once hindered the city now produces enough energy for nearly the entire population. The CCC also provides more than enough water for vertical farm irrigation, as well as for human consumption. All energy not produced by the CCC is generated by floating windmills. The PARA is a net-zero energy system providing a clean impervious landscape for all pavement systems using piezoelectric power produced by vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

The city is economically driven by tourism and fishing which provides an adequate tax base to support city services. Tempestas Aqua has exceptional medical facilities. The city public hospital, Cathrach Phoibli Ospideal, has medical staff highly skilled in advanced procedures, further attracting visitors and residents. Tempestas Aqua’s well-trained police department has virtually eliminated crime within the city, and the ambulance and fire response time is less than two minutes. There is a primary, middle, and high school, all of which are ranked in the top 100 nationally. There is also a veterinary clinic and a wildlife conservation center.

With all these innovations, the beautiful landscape, and a very unique culture, Tempestas Aqua is one of the top destinations in the world.




Building the model

Lily Kenn and Elizabeth Zollner are busy painting the city buildings.

Stacey Lamer, Mentor, CH2M HILL mentor

Lawrence, Kansas

The West Middle School Future City students are back to work after a much deserved holiday break. With the virtual SimCity™, research report, and narrative complete, the kids are focused on the to-scale physical model. Built from nearly 100 percent recycled materials, the model must best represent the team’s vision of their future city. This is no easy task as both technical and artistic qualities must be blended to accurately scale each feature in an aesthetically appealing manner.

Luke Longren works on the required self-contained moving part.