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Reflections from our First Full Year and Goals for 2017

Here are our musings on the ups and downs of I Look Like a Civil Engineer’s first full year, lessons from our journey, and hopes for 2017. 
 
As we look back over the year what strikes us most is remembering the uncertainty there was in everything we did and realizing the boundless optimism and energy we had. We didn’t know how any of the things we did would turn out, starting with our first event of the year, our photo booth at Discover Engineering Family Day (DEFD). As you may remember, this turned out to be one of the high points of our year as we had a long line of kids all day and showed about 500 excited kids that they look like a civil engineer. But the morning of DEFD when we were busy setting up our booth some of our volunteers looked around at the other amazing booths and activities and wondered if anyone would come to ours. Well, civil engineers and others have continued to contact us throughout the year to say how much they liked the booth and that want to help out this year. If you’re in DC on February 18th, come see us because we’ll be back again this year. (You can also see photos from our booth last year here–http://ilooklikeacivilengineer.com/wall/)
 
Around the same time we also launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funding for the app we’re making to showcase the diverse work and lives of civil engineers all around us. The campaign was both a low and a high point as even though we did all the research about how to run a campaign (and spent countless hours putting together our campaign), we still made the number 1 mistake of not knowing who was on board with our mission before we started. We didn’t meet our fundraising goal, which was disappointing, but we raised $10,000, and this was enough to get started on our app. Plus we were energized by all the support and feedback we received from our friends and colleagues.
 
The best thing we did this year by far was connect with people and organizations and companies who share our mission to increase awareness of civil engineering and promote diversity in the field. When we got shortlisted for a National Science Foundation grant we started working on building a broad coalition of educators, companies, organizations, and others to support the development of the app. We made a list of all the people we wanted to work with and just started calling and emailing everyone. We didn’t know if anyone would be interested in what we were doing, and were surprised and buoyed by the positive response we got. (We’d also never written an NSF grant proposal before so we each read the lengthy instructions and manual about a 100 times, and we were also lucky enough to have extremely generous friends and collaborators with PhD credentials and grant-writing experience to help us). Our hopes were high and after 2-months of waiting it was disappointing to find out we did not win the grant. However, we realized that overall the experience advanced our mission forward. All of our key collaborators remain committed to supporting us and the creation of the app, and we were ultimately encouraged by the NSF reviewers who had overwhelmingly positive things to say about our app.
 
We also held Mother’s and Father’s day contests and took a shot at social media (which by the way, when you do 1 tweet a day on a topic you’re interested in, you will learn a lot in a year along the way!), and more. Our judges for the contests included the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2017 President Norma Jean Mattei, Society of Women Engineer’s (SWE) 2016 President Colleen Layman, and East Bay Municipal District’s (EB MUD) Manager of Operations Eileen White, and Professor David H Marks of MIT. You can see the amazing essays from the winners here– http://ilooklikeacivilengineer.com/mothers-day-2016-essays/. If you haven’t already, you can also join our nearly 1,000 followers on Twitter and connect with us here– https://twitter.com/ilooklikeaCE.
 
In the last few months of the year we ran full speed on creating our map-based app to showcase the diverse projects and people in civil engineering. This has also been a period of both lows and highs. We generated excitement and a cohert of people and organizations across sectors and fields and disciplines who wanted to see and use our app. Then came the hard part of grinding away and actually creating what we’d been talking about. It was exciting and engaging to get everyone on-board with what we’re doing and then we had to step back and actually create it, and start working through all the little details about how it would actually work. It hasn’t been easy, and after what feels like a century we finally have a prototype and are in the final stages of development for the Alpha version of the app. (There’s so much more we could say about this phase since we basically made the leap from civil engineers to software development engineers. If you’re interested in learning more, stay tuned.)
 
One more thing we’ll share about the app development phase now though is that the best part of the whole process has been reaching out to and connecting with the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction community. We are now working one-on-one with over 40 civil engineering and other related AEC companies and organizations, both large and small, to upload their projects into the app. We also started receiving the greatest gift we could have just in time for the holiday season, which is projects to upload into our app. To-date we have already received over 50 projects!
 
This leads us to our number one goal for 2017 which is to share all of these great projects going on in the community with all of you. We also can’t wait to show you the app we’ve been talking about creating for the last year, so that you have something you can touch and feel, react to, and see the possibilities in.
 
We know most of our work is ahead of us as we will soon turn toward making this “first draft” of the app into a tool that empowers educators and students and civil engineers to envision and create a bright future. In 2017 we hope you will join us to transform our soon-to-be Alpha App into a Beta App by using it and sharing it and helping us to see things we didn’t see so we can make it better for civil engineers, companies, organizations, municipalities, and the education community.

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