ICE Essex goes Japanese

ICE Essex held a rather different sort of evening meeting recently.  Instead of the usual lectures with a single speaker / topic and attendees sat in rows aka theatre style, we held a ‘Mini Presentations’ evening with five short presentations and seven speakers in a more relaxed and social room arrangement.  Read on to learn more about the event and if it was a success.

I have – for some time – wanted to hold such a meeting and did manage to get it into our schedule for this session.  You can read more about how the meeting came to be and the format of the meeting in another blog here.  You can also view the slideshows from the meeting in a seperate blog here.

The event consisted of an evening with 5 short talks using the Pecha Kucha style of presentation.  Pecha Kucha was devised in Tokyo in 2003 by two architects and rests on a simple presentation format of 20 images x 20 seconds.  Each slide stays up for precisely 20 seconds before automatically moving on to the next one.  You can find out more about Pecha Kucha at http:\\pecha-kucha.org You’ll have to read the other blog to find out why we couldn’t call it a Pecha Kucha night.

The main idea behind the evening was to give graduates and other young civil engineers an opportunity to do some public speaking whilst also providing a more informal event to encourage more discussion and interaction between attendees.  In these respects the event was a definite success. An album of photos from the evening can be found on my picasaweb photo sharing website here with a selection of photos included below.

First up was Paul Eaves of consulting engineers AECOM.  Paul is based in the Chelmsford office and has long been a supporter of ICE Essex events and is a branch committee member.  Paul was keen to do a slot right from the start.

Paul discussing modes of site transport
Paul's offshore office!

In his presentation ‘Drilling Downunder’ Paul spoke about his recent experience of a nearshore soil investigation off the coast of western Australia.  The investigation was being carried out as part of a project to construct new jetty facilities for a big iron ore mining operation along with associated dredging of the approach channel for the bulk carriers.  Paul described the work taking place including his office location – a jackup barge, his accomodation – a floatel catamaran, and the view – occasionally breaching humpback whales.  It sounded like Paul had a pretty good time!

Next up was Essex based  social media expert Su Butcher who I have known for a few years through social media channels but had never met prior to the event. Su trained as an architect and currently owns and runs www.justpractising.com – an online consultancy aimed at promoting architects and the work they do and encouraging the use of social media in AEC industries.

Su Butcher - The Industry is Borked
Information can be quickly found on Twitter

Su’s talk was titled  ‘Why use social media in Construction’ and in it she gave four reasons why construction professions need to talk more and four reasons why they could – and should – be doing it online using social media tools.  She gave her view that the industry was ‘borked’ (US political slang for ‘broken’) in that the cost of good design and construction is far outweighed by the business outcomes they deliver.

Su described how LinkedIn has become the first stop to find information about people and how information can be found quickly using Twitter than by traditional means.  I can certainly vouch for this point of view and you will have realised by now that I am on LinkedIn and on Twitter as @Noynek and @ICE_Essex.

Finally before the break we had an unusual variant of the format with three young speakers from Laing O’Rourke – Matt Fitch, Ed Labinski and Orestes Adamou – all recent graduates of the same university.  In the same way that their current project is a joint venture their presentation titled ‘London Gateway Port’ was also a JV.

Matt, Ed and Orestes in full flow
Quay wall tie rod installation

Matt , Ed and Orestes were the least experienced of our speakers in public speaking but rose well to the challenge and provided an interesting insight into the works currently in progress to construct the first phase of the new London Gateway Port.  With excellent diagrams and photographs they described the quay construction sequence, the techniques being adopted such as diaphragm walling and wick drain / surcharging ground improvement techniques.  I have covered the project extensively on my blog  and recently had a tour of the site courtesy of Matt, Ed and Orestes.  A blog of that visit can be found here.  The guys did extremely well and only needed an extra 5 seconds on their final slide to deliver all that they had prepared.

With the first three presentations despatched we then had a 20 minute break for further refreshments and discussion.  The cafe style seating arrangement assisted this greatly and there was soon a real buzz of discussion going on.  Attendees were avidly discussing the presentations, making new connections and talking to the speakers.

Networking ahoy.

This is an aspect of our meetings that seems to have been lost of late and was very good to see. Pictured left is ICE East of England Regional Director Glen Owen who came along to lend his support.  Commenting afterwards Glen said that it was great to see the branches trying new and interesting ways of connecting with our members and that he hoped to see other branches doing likewise.

I spoke to a number of people during the break and was pleased to learn that not all the attendees were from the ICE.  Some were from the Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society and a few were members of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  I spoke at length with a retired IMechE member who was asking about STEM Ambassadors prompted by the literature on the tables.

Reluctantly we had to draw the break to a close and press on with the final two presentations.  First up doing talk number four was Claire Gott of WSP Group. I contacted Claire after seeing in NCE Magazine that she had recently been awarded the title of NCE Graduate of the Year and thought that she might like to do a talk on her charity work in Cameroon.  I looked up up on the web and decided she was probably relatively local and so got in touch.

It turned out that Claire was based in Birmingham but despite that, she was really keen to do a slot despite the 3 hour journey each way. That is what I call commitment. It was a pleasure meeting Claire who is a role model for graduate civil engineers. We will definitely be keeping in touch.

NCE Magazine Graduate of the Year Claire Gott

Claire’s talk was titled ‘Diverse opportunities in Engineeering’.  Whilst studying at Southampton University, Claire and a friend set up a charity – Cameroon Catalyst – with the aim of supporting and providing much needed new facilities in the village of Bambouti, Eastern Cameroon.  In her talk Claire described how they raised £55,000 in 9 months of fundraising and with the help of many other students set about researching needs and designing a new school building for the village – a facility that Claire and her colleagues then helped to build.  Claire’s charity continues to support the village and a 5 year development plan will see additional school facilities and workshops being built in the future.

Claire being hands-on in Bambouti

Claire’s slides showed various aspects of the design and construction plus the local techniques and materials that were used in the design and construction. One image showed how the local people dug a new 12m deep well, by hand, in just five days.  Claire’s work in Cameroon graphically demonstrates what it is to be a Civil Engineer – using our skills to use the natural and man made environments for the benefit of mankind. Very well done Claire.

Last but not least was Danny Jennings from Essex County Council whose talk ‘Winter Maintenance in Essex’ provided an interesting insight into the decision making process , mechanics and logistics that goes to keeping our major roads open during cold weather.  Danny is also a member of the ICE Essex committee and whilst his day job is as a structural engineering in the highways department he is also a Central Standby Officer (CSO) with responsibilities for assessing the weather data and deciding whether to send the gritting teams out.

Danny Jennings of Essex County Council
Danny's fridge door..

Danny explained how data collection on highway conditions is carried out and how forecasting is used to predict if the highway network is going to have slippery surfaces (actually quite technical). He went on to show the highway network that is gritted if weather conditions require it and said that treating over 3,000km of “A” and “B” roads and most bus routes typically takes 4 hours and uses over 200 tonnes of salt.

Danny end his talk with a photo of his fridge door….

The event really was a great success and all those we talked to afterwards back this up.  Feedback from the evening was really positive with one of those attending saying that

it was one of the best meetings I’ve attended for a long time… a real breath of fresh air

I would personally like to thank all the speakers who gave up their time to present at the event and all the attendees that support the event by coming along.

Before everyone departed we grabbed a group photo of all our speakers which is included below.  From left they are: Claire Gott, Danny Jennings, Su Butcher, Orestes Adamou, Ed Labinski, Matt Fitch and Paul Eaves

Our seven excellent speakers

As mentioned initially you can see more photos from the event on my Picasaweb photo sharing website here.

Look out for similar events coming to an ICE branch near you soon!

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