Civil Engineering and You

This series of articles explores the connection between you as a young practitioner and your civil engineering profession. The inspiring and thought-provoking series is written by Ranjit Sahai, PE, F.ASCE, a principal at RAM Corporation, a consulting engineering firm specializing in traffic engineering design, stormwater facility inspections, and information technology projects. He is a member of the NCS Transportation Committee leadership team and a past president (2013-14) of the National Capital Section of ASCE. To contact him, navigate to THIS page and click Contact Form to send an email.

Production is, in a civilized society, your primary means of physical survival—and it’s demanding work. Art is, on the other hand, nourishment for your soul; it can relax you, recharge your batteries and provide the fuel you need to charge ahead against all odds.

Poster of Leaning Out, a film created by Basia + Leonard Myszynski
Poster of Leaning Out, a film created by Basia + Leonard Myszynski

Whenever facing seemingly insurmountable challenges on a project, I recall Calumet K, the story I had read over two decades ago and it gives me the inspiration to think different and conquer. The riveting story I refer to is about a civil engineering project manager who overcomes one hurdle after another then another and yet another to build what was thought to be unbuildable.

A civil engineer as a hero in a novel? Yes!

The celebration of engineers and their achievements through art (literature, plays, poems, sketches, songs, cinema) is an exception in modern culture that celebrates celebrities. One such exception was the release last year of the IMAX film Dream Big. There is another organization you may not have heard of that celebrates civil engineers through cinema: sOlar eye communications ( I first heard of them in Fall 2015 in a newsletter from AISC when their documentary film Bridging Urban America ( was released. The film is an inspiring story about Ralph Modjeski, a master bridge builder – his life and the signature bridges he built. I had alluded to this film in my Your Medium Is Infrastructure blog on the Section’s Website.

sOlar eye’s next film is titled Leaning Out. Its focus is on Les Robertson, a structural engineer, and on the monument to human ingenuity and achievement he engineered as the Twin Towers. The film footage is shot and post-production work remains before the film will be ready for release. If you wish to change our culture so it reaches a state when engineers and their accomplishments are celebrated as a matter of course in art, and to the time when kids look to engineering as an inspiring career, there is no easier way than to contribute to the post-production funding sOlar eye is looking for. Those looking to sponsor the film at any level are encouraged to contact Basia Myszynski, Filmmaker/Producer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. She will be happy to share details about levels of sponsorship and benefits available to sponsors (i.e. potential screen credit or Website listing for contribution). Be sure to watch and be inspired by the film when it is released.

What does the title Leaning Out have to do with structural engineering and high rises? Basia answered thus, “As he describes it, Les was able to excel at specific extreme sports, such as wind surfing, mountain climbing, racing cars, because he leaned out. He found the ideal technique! I think it applies to his engineering innovations, iconic hi-rises and approach to collaborations. It’s a metaphor for his life philosophy; how he sees things based on his experiences. He really stands out. And remember, he’s seen a lot. 89 years old.

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