PITTSBURGH (June 14, 2019) … Kaitie DeOre, a senior civil engineering student at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, has been selected to receive the 2019 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Region 2 Outstanding Student Award in recognition of her contributions to Pitt’s ASCE Student Chapter, the community, and the engineering profession.
DeOre serves as president of Pitt’s student chapter, an award-winning section that currently has over 180 student members. Prior to her current appointment, she held the role of service/outreach chair where she established a strong volunteer base with the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and other organizations.
In 2019 DeOre planned Pitt ASCE’s first annual Civil Engineering Day, an event that targeted high school students interested in civil engineering and facilitated hands-on activities, lab tours, professional demonstrations, and faculty panels.
“I knew that I wanted to be an engineer at a young age after attending engineering programs at Penn State Fayette, and I always wonder where I would be today if I hadn’t gotten involved in these programs prior to college,” DeOre said. “Most current civil engineering students would agree that when they entered the Swanson School, they had no idea that they would become civil engineers, much less understood what one did. When the Pittsburgh Section approached me about sponsoring an outreach event in the fall, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to try to ‘bridge’ the education gap with high school students.”
DeOre also contacted Keith Smith, a teacher at Connellsville Area High School, to establish a mentorship program that worked toward helping students transition to college and understand the everyday life of an engineering student.
“When I started college, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, especially coming from a rural area where there weren’t always a lot of resources available,” DeOre explained. “When I contacted Mr. Smith about meeting his students and becoming a resource for them, both Mr. Smith and the students were ecstatic.
“I have become passionate about providing opportunities to high school students that I wish I would’ve had when I was in their shoes,” she continued. “I really hope that we can build upon this program and involve more schools in the near future.”
In addition to her work with local high schools, DeOre has organized fundraising and volunteer events around the community. She led a fundraiser to benefit the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, created “puppy rugs” for a local animal shelter, and volunteered time at the Millvale Community Library and Oakland’s Family House.
She also helped her peers at Point Park University (PPU) establish an ASCE chapter of their own.
“We assisted in creating their constitution and helping them understand what needed to be done to get their chapter up and running,” DeOre said. “We invited them to all of our ASCE events during the spring semester, including a joint Pitt-Carnegie Mellon University-PPU technical speaking event that I organized where ASCE Pittsburgh Section Governor Pat Sullivan was invited to speak.”
In 2018 DeOre’s passion for volunteer work took her out of the United States and to Central America where she visited the Embera Tribe in Panama with Daniel Budny, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pitt. During this service-learning project, she and a group of volunteers installed a water filtration system, solar panels, a concrete footbridge, and steps to their water tanks. They also reconfigured a refrigeration circuit that was installed on a previous trip.
“Traveling to Panama with Dr. Budny was an experience of a lifetime. I will never forget when we first entered the village by boat and saw it appear through the trees,” DeOre said. “This trip showed me what true ingenuity looked like: we did rough concrete calculations standing in a hardware shop, had PVC pipes explode while installing water systems, and learned the most efficient ways to kill big spiders at a distance - all things that I wouldn’t have experienced elsewhere. It gave me a much broader perspective as to what engineering looks like in the real world and on a much broader, global spectrum.
“Most importantly, we left the tribe with access to filtered water, a system to keep food fresh during dry fish-catching seasons, and a way to safely maneuver their community at night with no electricity,” DeOre continued. “They shared a story with us about a woman who suffered a medical emergency and was able to survive with the help of our portable solar lights that guided her safely up the river to medical attention.”
DeOre will complete her undergraduate degree in December 2020. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career in geotechnical engineering.
Contact: Leah Russell