Monday, January 28, 2019

Chris Ferguson named central region transit and rail market lead at WSP

Chris Ferguson has been appointed central region transit and rail market lead for WSP USA, an engineering and professional services consultancy. In his new role, Ferguson, based in the firm’s Chicago office, will drive business development and pursuits and strategy, synchronize teaming relationships, lead coordination and communications with clients and partners, and support technical projects.

With a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama, Ferguson has more than a decade of transit and rail industry expertise, including with Class One freight railroads and projects for transportation agencies such as Metra (Chicago), the Chicago Transit Authority, SunRail (Florida), the Utah Transit Authority, and Rio Metro (New Mexico). He continues to work with various agencies on positive train control implementation as they strive to meet regulatory deadlines. 

“Chris is a strong rail systems manager with a successful track record defining and executing strategy, managing programs and projects, improving process, and engaging stakeholders,” says Julie D’Orazio, senior vice president and WSP’s national market leader for transit and rail. “Chris has exceptional skills in cultivating solutions to highly technical challenges. He does this by proactively seeking the perspectives of stakeholders with widely differing goals and crafting win-win scenarios,” adds Phil Pasterak, vice president and director of WSP’s transit and rail group.

WSP has extensive experience with all forms of mass transit—heavy and light rail, streetcars and people movers, and bus rapid transit. The firm combines knowledge in engineering design and construction-phase services with strategic consulting, land use planning, and program management to provide clients with comprehensive support from inception through operations, with a strong emphasis on making transportation infrastructure truly sustainable. The firm’s experience in transit-oriented development aids clients in fostering the creation of vibrant, livable communities centered on transit. The firm is rail delivery partner to the California High-Speed Rail Authority for a statewide high-speed rail system and is providing engineering support for the Texas Bullet Train between Houston and Dallas. The firm is also contributing to the advancement of rail systems in Seattle; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; Chicago; Durham, North Carolina; and Buffalo, New York.

WSP USA is the U.S. operating company of WSP, a global engineering and professional services firms consisting of engineers, planners, technical experts, strategic advisors, and construction management professionals. WSP USA designs solutions in the buildings, transportation, energy, water and environment markets, with more than 7,000 people in 100 offices across the United States. For more information, visit

Friday, January 18, 2019

Parfait Masungi escapes the Congo to find opportunity

By Milady Nazir

Parfait Masungi is one of the lucky ones. At the age of 15, he won a green card lottery visa  and with it, a ticket to leave the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This was his chance to escape the country embroiled in “Africa’s World War,” the Rwandan Genocide civil war where more than six million people were killed. His home is the same place that became synonymous for the use of children as soldiers and where thousands of kids work deep in the mines with bare hands to dig for cobalt, the mineral that makes mobile phones possible.

“The future is death,” says Masungi about what youth in the DRC feel. “I couldn’t let that happen to me. I had an opportunity to do something better.”
The road that led out of the DRC for Masungi started with walking seven miles each day just to get to school. And on Saturdays, when kids usually play, he went back to school to learn English instead. His daily life was made even more dangerous as he had to be wary of guerrilla violence from the encroaching war into the capital Kinshasa, where he lived. Many times, curfews were the norm.

Then in November 2010, after a year of going through extensive interviews with the American consulate, Masungi, with the rest of his family, landed in Dallas, Texas. He knew his parents didn’t have the means to pay for a higher education. Athletics became the path to excel and get into college as he played football and track and field; however, he was diagnosed with a heart condition that required emergency open heart surgery, cutting short any hopes of athletic stardom.

Masungi leads middle school students on a tour of UTSA's downtown campus

Masungi learned about the University of Texas at San Antonio's engineering program and applied to it. Four years later, he walked the commencement stage with cum laude distinction in civil engineering. This year, he won “best presenter in civil engineering” at the SACNAS (Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) convention and competed against students from the nation’s most competitive schools including MIT and UC Berkeley.

During his time at UTSA, Masungi worked on testing high-strength reinforcement steel bars, a building component that promises to save energy and money in new construction.
The 80-ksi bars are designed with spiral patterns that focus on flexure and anchorage behavior. They are fabricated by cold working, long a method of producing high-strength reinforcement below the recrystallization temperature.

“In our study, we investigated the mechanical properties and performance of the spiral steel in concrete slabs by conducting monotonic tension tests. Current building codes in the United States limit the use of high-strength reinforcing steel,” Masungi explains. “These limitations are mainly due to a lack of profound research and understanding and limited test data on the performance and effects of high-strength steel in concrete structures.”

The use of high-strength steel bars in reinforced concrete has the potential to improve design methods in concrete members and significantly reduce the quantity of steel used in construction. This would reduce energy consumption related to fabricating, manufacturing, and transporting the steel.

Masungi recently graduated from the University of Texas San Antonio with a B.S. in Civil Engineering

Upon graduation, Masungi has an offer to start a PhD program at the University of Florida, where he previously interned and assisted in the development of a pilot program to work on algorithms that guide driverless buses. Right now, he’s hoping to win a fellowship from the National Science Foundation and perhaps pursue more training at UTSA so he can be close to his sister, who currently attends the institution.

As Masungi relates, “If I receive the NSF Fellowship, I would like to pursue more training in structural and transportation engineering. This would focus on high-strength materials and sustainable design of reinforced concrete and structural steel members and frames.” The top schools where he would like to pursue his advanced graduate studies include Stanford, UTSA, Princeton, University of Florida, or Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Although he’s only 22 years old, Masungi is mature beyond his age. Yes, he has some unpleasant memories of the Congo, but he also feels a responsibility to give back to other Congolese youth so they no longer envision a bleak future. He wants to have his own engineering firm, set up educational exchange programs, and export infrastructure technologies back home.

“I want to give Congo students the opportunity to come to the U.S. and get that education. I don’t take being here for granted,” Masungi says.

Milady Nazir is a public affairs specialist at the University of Texas at San Antonio Office of University Communications and Marketing

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Wave energy converter successfully tested for powering oceanographic instrumentation

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (EXWC) has announced the most recent round of wave energy converter (WEC) testing at the U.S. Navy's Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) off Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH), Kaneohe, Hawaii, on the Island of Oahu.   

In October 2018, the Applied Research Laboratory (ARL) at the University of Hawaii, with funding from NAVFAC, and in partnership with the University of Washington, Fred. Olsen, Ltd., and Sea Engineering, Inc., began the second round of testing of the Fred. Olsen (of Norway) BOLT Lifesaver WEC device. The device uses three power take-off (PTO) units that convert the motion of passing waves to electrical power by way of rotary electrical generators. Control and health-monitoring of these on-board systems is housed in the control center. The WEC is not connected to shore, and the power generated is stored in a battery bank.

This phase of Lifesaver testing at WETS has two primary aims: first, to improve device reliability and power performance, through alterations to the device mooring strategy, and second, to demonstrate an alternative means of powering oceanographic instrumentation without using utility-supplied electrical grid power or single-use batteries. The instrumentation, known as the Wave-powered Adaptable Monitoring Package (WAMP), is being tested on BOLT Lifesaver and was designed, assembled, and integrated with the WEC by the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC), University of Washington, leveraging the capabilities of the Applied Physics Laboratory (a U.S. Navy University Affiliated Research Center) and the department of Mechanical Engineering. Receiving its power from the Lifesaver, the WAMP provides persistent underwater sensing, and supports unmanned, undersea vehicle (UUV) re-charge using a wireless power transfer system developed by Seattle startup Wibotic, Inc. The WAMP is the latest in a series of demonstrations of the core AMP technology and is being used in this application to better understand the marine environment around an operational WEC buoy.

The joint Lifesaver-WAMP test is funded by NAVFAC, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Science Foundation. The overall effort is part of a larger joint U.S. Navy, DOE, academic (University of Hawaii, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, and University of Washington PMEC), and industry research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) project. This is the world's first demonstration of the potentially transformative capability for WECs to enable persistent oceanographic observation and UUV re-charge without a cable to shore.