Dreaming Big for National Engineers Week 2017

“Engineering gives a unique satisfaction to all those who work in the profession, as we work to
improve the built environment.”
– Todd Wilson, PE, GAI Consultants

With this year’s theme being Dream Big, National Engineers Week (E-Week) connects engineers from across the world and celebrates their unique talents, abilities, and of course, dreams. As E-Week is celebrated February 19 – 25, 2017, GAI Consultants (GAI) has asked a few of our engineers to reflect on their engineering journey.


Allison McCurdy Image 1Allison McCurdy, EIT

Senior Engineer-in-Training

What motivates you to continue pursuing your engineering dreams?

Allison: When I graduated college with a mechanical engineering major and environmental engineering minor, I joined the Order of the Engineer. This society is based on dedication to engineering for the common good. Consistent with this vision, I intend to spend my career working towards facilitating environmentally responsible developments, especially of utilities, and where possible seeking environmental footprint reduction, waste-to-reuse, and other sustainable solutions for addressing the bi‑products of modern day human life.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring engineers, what would it be?

Allison: Although you will need to pull on your specific technical knowledge, the ability to analyze a problem and work through a step-by-step solution path with the proper verification and resource usage is the true feat of engineering. Also, do not forego participation in group problem solving environments—these situations provide important experience with teamwork, clear communication, and organization, all of which helps in an engineering career.

If you were President, what legislation would you enact to benefit the AEC industry?

Allison: I would direct additional funding to renewable energy technology development programs. I would also require more in-depth environmental stewardship measures to be performed for new development projects, especially new resource transportation or harvesting projects. Additionally, I would have a centralized and easily searchable, publically accessible database of information about developments created so that citizens could easily find this information.


Ali Noorollahi, PE

Senior Technical Leader, Transportation

What encouraged you to “dream big” and become a professional engineer?

Ali: When I came to the United States for a higher education, I saw so many amazing bridges along the way. From that time on, it became a “big dream” of mine to be able to design bridges.

What motivates you to continue pursuing your engineering dreams?

Ali: Being the bridge designer that I am, it is a key motivation to see thousands of people every day using the bridges that I have designed.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring engineers, what would it be?

Ali: Design a monument structure that millions of people can go visit, enjoy looking at it, and take pictures of to send to all of their friends!


Todd Wilson, PE

Senior Project Engineer

What encouraged you to “dream big” and become a professional engineer?

Todd: Growing up in Pittsburgh, I marveled at the spectacular infrastructure that our engineers created. Seeing all of the city’s different bridges, roads along hillsides, tunnels, interchanges, and other civil engineering works made me want to be a professional engineer to contribute to our built transportation environment. My parents were artists, not engineers. Seeing my interest at a young age, they encouraged me to photograph and to draw bridges and to participate in local events, like bridge building contests. They helped me to “dream big” to study civil engineering.

What motivates you to continue pursuing your engineering dreams?

Todd: Engineering gives a unique satisfaction to all those who work in the profession, as we work to improve the built environment. Unlike many other professions, we can see the results of our work get built. In doing so, we strive to create improvement projects that might not be noticed at all. For example, I commute to GAI driving through a traffic signal I helped to design. The intersection has five approaches with unconventional geometry, ultimately leading to numerous crashes and confused drivers in the wrong places. While it is satisfying to look around at signs and devices I designed, it is far more rewarding to see traffic flowing more safely through the intersection. Creating safety improvements that prevent crashes and ultimately save lives, while improving efficiency, motivates me to continue pursuing my engineering dreams.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring engineers, what would it be?

Todd: Engineering is more than just a job, it is a profession. I would encourage aspiring engineers to be involved with professional societies and volunteer/service organizations. While technical excellence is an essential part of engineering, it is just one part of having a successful career. It is very important to network with professionals, to look for opportunities to expand and grow your knowledge base, and to give back to the community.


Wesley Sipe, PE

Senior Manager, Engineering

What encouraged you to “dream big” and become a professional engineer?

Wesley: I knew I was meant to be an engineer when I was 13 years old. I think back and remember one story in particular–a friend of mine asked what kind of lawnmower I had. Expecting “power mower” or “push mower,” my response was something like: I have a Craftsman, 24” cut, 65 cubic inch displacement, chain drive self-propelled, push button electric start, rear bag, four forward speeds, and two reverse and Magnesium chassis for weight saving. (Yes I had read and memorized the manual). He just looked at me weird. Later, my high school guidance counselor provided a list of vocations and I easily picked “aerospace engineer.” Eight years later, I graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring engineers, what would it be?

Wesley: I tell our less experienced engineers all the time–Learn and understand the physical world around you and how it works; it will give you solutions. If you know how things work, then you will understand which solutions will work and which will not. Continue to expand your understanding so that set of available solutions increases. Most of all, remember what you have learned. If you make a mistake, learn from it and help others not to repeat the same mistake.

If you were President, what legislation would you enact to benefit the AEC industry?

Wesley: I don’t envy the job of President. It seems to me like there are no right answers for that person. Engineering answers tend to be gray as well, but with clarifying statements about the application, the trade-offs can be made to get the “right” answer. I would encourage our President to foster Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs. As our population increases, the number of problems in our world are increasing and we need awesome young engineers to help solve them.


Bruce Roth, PE

Director, Engineering

What encouraged you to “dream big” and become a professional engineer?

Bruce: My main motivation was economic stability. I was a young father working several labor intensive jobs without much opportunity for growth and the constant fear of layoff. Since I was considered to be “smart,” had decent academic qualifications, and an interest in the geologic sciences, I decided to pursue a career in geological engineering.

What motivates you to continue pursuing your engineering dreams?

Bruce: I am now motivated by the success of my staff. I enjoy seeing them make progress and grow in their careers.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring engineers, what would it be?

Bruce: Prod your bosses to be honest with you. You will not be fired for asking respectful questions. Remember that more money is not going to make or break your career. Ultimately, what will make you happy at work is not the amount of money you make, but your relationships with those you interact with. (Hey, that’s more than one piece of advice). Additionally, learn to write.


Founded in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, National Engineers Week is dedicated to raising public awareness of engineers’ positive contributions to quality of life; stressing the importance of high levels of literacy in science, technology, and math; increasing youth understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers; and ensuring a diverse and well‑educated future engineering workforce.

Programs planned in association with E-Week include screenings of “Dream Big: Engineering Our World” (various dates), Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day (2.23.17), Global Day of the Engineer (4.5.17), and more. In addition, GAI has compiled a list of our favorite E-Week activities for children, as well as a list of events taking place in major cities near you.

With so many options to choose from, how will you celebrate E-Week 2017? Be sure to share your experiences with us on social media: Twitter (GAIConsultants), Facebook (gaiconsultants), LinkedIn (gai-consultants-inc-), and YouTube (gaiconsultants).

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