Hagan judges year's top U.S. engineering projects

Posted: April 6, 2015 - 8:08am

Awards show season may have ended for Hollywood’s A‑listers, but for U.S. engineering firms, the red carpet rolls out in April. That’s when the nation’s best engineering achievements at sites around the world will be honored at the 49th annual Engineering Excellence Awards Gala in Washington, D.C. Y‑12’s Gary Hagan knows the top award winner but won’t breathe a word until the big reveal.

Hagan was one of more than 30 judges invited to assess the 170 projects entered in this year’s American Council of Engineering Companies competition. The panel of judges ranked the projects according to uniqueness and originality, technical innovation, social and economic value and complexity.

“As judges, we individually rated a subset of the projects in advance,” said Hagan, who holds a B.S. in chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State University. “Each judge was given several individual projects to champion after the initial down-select. A timed presentation followed by a short Q&A session gave you the opportunity to persuade your fellow judges that ‘your project’ was more innovative, efficient and beneficial to the community and science of engineering than the other entries.”

Hagan said that votes were then cast to determine the top 24 projects. “A lively round of discussion followed where judges would challenge the results, suggesting their project was more worthy than one initially placed in the top 24,” Hagan said.

The same process of presentation, vote and challenge was used to select the top 8 and finally the top project in the nation: the Grand Conceptor award for the year’s most outstanding overall engineering achievement.

For Hagan, the benefit of being a judge was twofold. First, he was exposed to modern feats of engineering, and second, he could bring back some of that knowledge and expertise to the workplace. “It was an incredible opportunity to have impressive fellow judges give focused presentations on the best features and methods used in projects to achieve national prominence and then to bring that information back to UPF and Y‑12,” said Hagan, who manages the Uranium Processing Facility Project’s Environment, Safety and Health organization.

Aside from glowing customer recommendations, Hagan said winning projects exhibited a strong commitment to teamwork, a core value essential to the success of building the Uranium Processing Facility. “The projects were each developed by a team pulling in the same direction often with many companies working together in one or two locations,” Hagan said. “Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?”

Although Hagan won’t be attending the black-tie gala announcing the Grand Conceptor award winner, he is proud to have played a role in this year’s competition. Past top-winning projects include the Space Shuttle Launch Complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; the AEOS 3.67 Meter Telescope Facility in Honolulu, Hawaii; the Seattle Aquarium; and the Maysville Cable Stayed Bridge in Kentucky. Bechtel Infrastructure’s San Francisco Muni Metro Turnback Project was the 1998 Grand Conceptor award winner.

The American Council of Engineering Companies, known as ACEC, is the business association of America’s engineering industry, representing more than 5,000 independent engineering firms and more than 500,000 professionals throughout the U.S. Founded in 1909, ACEC is a national federation of 51 state and regional organizations.