Today’s episode touches on the relationship between the ever-increasing and fast-paced development of technology and how it may impact the civil engineering world. Isaac sits down to chat with Scott Denney, a professional engineer with a great deal of experience in the construction industry, but who now works as an executive project developer at Pikus Concrete & Construction, a company performing activities in the 3D printing industry. In addition to many other career-related tips and predictions on the field’s future, given the development of technology, Scott also mentions how he prepared for the PE exam. He took a PE Review course to sort of refresh his mind and get in touch with the topics that he hasn’t had contact with during the years he was working on job sites.
Listen to this episode in order to get many more insights and tips from a conversation between two civil engineers with a great deal of experience and learning to pass on to the next generation. Reach out to Scott at [email protected], and get in touch with Isaac at [email protected].
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- Civil Engineering Academy – If you need exams, solved problems or courses, make sure to check out our home base;
- The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – Check out Civil Engineering Academy PE Review course if you need a refresher on PE-related content.
- Pikus Concrete & Construction – Visit Scott’s Company Website and check out the innovative work that may revolutionize the field as a whole.
- Scott Denney’s Linkedin – Get in touch with Scott.
- Pencils of Promise – A non-profit organization that builds schools and increases educational opportunities in the developing world
CEA Show Notes
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Isaac Oakeson: All right. Welcome. We got Scott with us today. Welcome to the show, Scott. Thanks. Good to be here. Yeah, this is going to be a good time. I know you've told me a little bit about yourself, but a lot of times our listeners like to know how you got into engineering and like what you currently do. So, could you give us a brief background to that?
Scott Denney: Yeah, absolutely. I guess engineering was always kind of a thing for me, even when I was a kid, I love building and always working out in the garage, you know? And so I just kind of transitioned. I originally thought that architecture is where I wanted to go, but I quickly learned I did not have the artistic capabilities for that.And so engineering was a good fit. So, I did engineering while in engineering school. I also learned something else about myself that maybe like the typical engineering career may not have been exactly what I was looking for.So, construction I found was a perfect fit for me. And so being out on the job sites, working with the guys just kind of the dynamic conditions of the job site and construction projects was a lot of fun. So I did that for probably 13 or 14 years. And then over the course of this last year, I transitioned into a new division that we've been working on and it's 3D concrete printing.
Isaac Oakeson: Excellent. So, wow. That's, pretty cool. Now, I guess everyone should know that we had a little run in school together, right? We had a few things together. And then on top of that, you also know my brother, Mark.
Scott Denney: Yeah! Mark is a great guy.
Isaac Oakeson: What's the story there?
Scott Denney: He promised me not to share any dirt, so I will honor that promise. No. Mark doesn't have any dirt. He's an awesome guy. And we worked together for -- Oh man. It was probably -- I want to say I was in Salt Lake. I don't know. Four or five years directly with him. And then I got transferred up to Seattle and I still kept in contact with them. And then when I came back, he was one of the first people that I called and just get back connected. So yeah, I've had a 15-year relationship with Mark. He's good guy.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. So that's just some fun background story there. So now you're working for a company called Pikus and you're doing this awesome concrete 3D printing. So, like, what's a typical day for you now? Like, how does that work? People order stuff? What are you doing?
Scott Denney: So we're still in, I'd say our startup phase, right? We've had the printer, it was installed in October-November timeframe. And since then there's been a lot of debugging and kind of working out the kinks. But we're finally up and running. We're into production. So I don't know that there's a typical day right now, but we are exploring the different market segments where this can be applied. And so there's a lot ofkind of reaching out to people, trying different things looking at different applications, products. So there's a lot of that, but there's also a lot of boots-on-the-ground type of stuff. So we're busy printing obviously, and that's a big operation that requires a decent amount of manpower and we've only got four people right now that are part of the operation. Yeah, It's all hands on deck.
Isaac Oakeson: So what market, or like, what areas do you want to go in? Do you think with this technology, is it anything and everything, or is it like you're looking at specific things?
Scott Denney: You know, we're really trying to stay open to whatever possibilities are out there. I think the end game would be probably the structural market, you know? The architectural and structural market is where we'd like to be. I think that's going to take quite a bit of time for the governing bodies to kind of catch up with the capabilities of the technology. So while we're kind of pushing that, we're also looking at consumer goods I mean, anything from like flower pots, you know, to fire pits, toarchitectural featuresLandscape architecture seems to be a really good, i guess.
Isaac Oakeson: It sounds like you've come full circle then, back to architecture
Scott Denney: A little bitThe organic shapes that we can print they blend in really well with a landscape environment, right? So, it's got a pretty strong appeal with the landscape architecture community.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. I think it's just a neat technology. I know 3D printers or something it's been around for a few years, but the application of using them just continues to grow. So personally this is the first time I've ever heard it being used in a kind of a concrete type applications. So hat's actually a really cool idea.
Scott Denney: Yeah. I'll be honest. Like, when I first got into it, I was like "Ah, this is, this is pie in the sky. This is real. This is stuff that maybe they're doing at a university or whatever". But it was an interesting experience, just kind of seeing what was out there and the capabilities that were out there and really coming to realize that "Hey, this is legit". Like, It's time to produce, you know?
Isaac Oakeson: Well, I told you one day I gotta get in there, we'll do a little video and share it with everybody. I think it would be a really cool thing to share with people. I want to ask if there's -- because a lot of times in our community we get a lot of rising engineers growing starting engineering, but, you know, looking back in your own career and where you're at now, do you have any advice or tips or tools that that would help a growing engineer?
Scott Denney: You know I've had an interesting experience over the course of the lastyear, two years, as I've been talking to engineers about this technology and how to apply it. And the biggest thing that I could share is to think outside the box. Because you'll approach some of these guys and they'll be like, "Well, I can't find that in my code book, right?" Like, "I don't know what to do with that". And then you'll approach another guy and he's like, "Oh, well maybe if we look at it like a masonry type application, we could apply this code to it and we could make it work." And so, being able to think outside the box is huge. And I think not only in my specific situation, but in a lot of other situations where, "Okay, there isn't a specific code provision for this. What do we do? You've gotta be creative and you've gotta find a solution that works. And so, yeah, being able to think outside the box is a big deal. It's a good skill to have.
Isaac Oakeson: I think that's a great skill and I think that's great for any engineer to hear, cause a lot of times, you know, you get caught up in school and how it's taught in the books that you need to use. And then when you get out in real lifeyou're kind of slapped in the face with reality and sometimes it doesn't match a textbook. So good advice.
Scott Denney: Absolutely.
Isaac Oakeson: What about, what about a lesson that you've learned through a mistake or anything that you've seen at a distance, maybe a mistake that was made. You know, a lot of times we learn when we fail. So if there's any of those pieces of advice, we'd love to hear those too.
Scott Denney: Yeah. So I'm thinking back on a project. It wasthe Matthew Knight arena or The University of Oregon. So this is back in my concrete formwork days. Andit was an extremely technical formwork project and we had to basically shore these Raker beams that were 60 feet in the air and on a very aggressive slope. So, two conditions that are pretty tough to handle sometimes, especially with the equipment that you may be using. So I was receiving a lot of pressure from the job site tothin back some of the specifications that I'd provided on the formwork. And I was pretty anxious about it. I didn't feel comfortable with it. But I conceded. I said, "Okay, you're right. I'm being too conservative". And I conceded, even though I didn't feel at 100% comfortable with it. And we had some movement in some of the rakers that caused some major issues. Luckily, they stayed within tolerance and it wasn't anything substantial, but just yeah--
Isaac Oakeson: Enough to make it uncomfortable..
Scott Denney: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Anytime anything's moving 60 feet in the air and you're talkingthousands and thousands of pounds, that's not a good scenario. So.
Isaac Oakeson: That's scary.
Scott Denney: It is. We'll call it luck, right? Like, nothing happened. Quality was still okay. We didn't have to rip anything out, but, yeah. Valuable lesson. Don'tconcede if you know where things need to be. Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's a great advice. So, I think a lot of times -- I mean, a lot of times in engineering, there's some pressure to, like you said, reduce what your tolerances are or, you know, make it cheaper, shorter, quicker, things like that. Andat the end of the day, you have to live with what you designed. So maybe, like you said, trust, you know, how you're feeling. Luckily that worked out for you. Yeah. But, yeah. I guess that, that was a good lesson learned.
Scott Denney: Yeah.
Isaac Oakeson: What's been your favorite project, if we're speaking of projects. Has there been a favorite that you've worked on? Is the stuff you're doing now your favorite? Like, what's been your favorite?
Scott Denney: You know, I -- Yeah, there's been a lot of fun projects. Probably -- Yeah. This 3D printingGetting this up and going is probably been one of my favorites. So we started two years ago, researching. We went over to Europe and did kind of a tour of Europe and visited a bunch of companies that were doing 3D printing. And we came in contact with Sika, the company that we're partnered up with. Andit was kind of game on from there. So we worked with them, developing the specifications for the printer, as far as the size and the other capabilities that we needed out of it. Once we have the printer specifications nailed down, then we had to go to work onbuilding a warehouse to house the printer. So, we were thinking about the operations and what we were going to need in this warehouse and design designing that functionality into the warehouse. Andwe kind of got caught off guard because the property that we were going to build the warehouse on there were some issues with the land and property property lines and that. And so we were scrambling. So, in a time period offrom April, starting in April, we purchased the land, we started design on the building and had permit by the middle of June and we broke ground immediately, and then we had the structure substantially complete by October, which was a pretty tight timeframe. And so it was pretty intense, but it's been very satisfying, kind of seeing it all come together and then now having the operations just kind of taking off and really cool opportunities coming through the door. It's been a lot of fun.
Isaac Oakeson: Wow. That's crazy. You know, I think as this grows, obviously, you know, competition comes around, but it sounds like you've got a good partner. Sounds like you're moving this thing forward quickly. And I think it's exciting. I'd be interested to see what products you're making and working with people on. So that's definitely something you're interested in today. I'd like to ask you a couple of quick questions, some short answers, but what's an obstacle that you faced in becoming a civil engineer, whether that was school or FE, PE or your boss, something like that, but what are some obstacles you faced?
Scott Denney: The first one that comes to mind is, I guess, just complying with the requirements, state requirements. So I was maybe a little impatient in getting licensed.I was going to school and working full time. And so, like, complying with the state requirements for the professional experience and having your degree, there's a little bit of a discrepancy about if I was complying with those requirements. And so I had to appeal the board and, it was actually up in Washington that I was doing this, and it was a little bit of a process. I had to plead my case. And at the end of the day, they gave me my license, which was awesome. And let me take the exam. And so.
Isaac Oakeson: Was this for the PE or was this for the SE? What was this for?
Scott Denney: It was for the PE.
Isaac Oakeson: Okay. Yeah. Getting licensed in other States some times can be a hassle.
Scott Denney: Yeah, absolutely.
Isaac Oakeson: Definitely an obstacle. That's good advice too. You know, a lot of engineers are working in a lot of different States, so do you have any, I mean, is there any tips there to help others when they're getting licensed in other States?
Scott Denney: You know, the reciprocity helps, right? And so if you canSince I'm only licensed in Utah right now and that's where I live. And so I haven't had to keep up with it, but there's definitely resources out there and I'm trying to remember. I'm drawing a blank on what use.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, it's all good. I believe NCES has kind of a place where you can store your licenses and try to get reciprocity in other States. They try to help you with that, but I do know it's kind of a pain. So good luck to engineers getting licenses and lots of States.
Scott Denney: Absolutely.
Isaac Oakeson: How about this? What's the best advice you've ever received or good advice in general?
Scott Denney: I'll go back tomaybe using your engineering judgment. Again, like you said, the real world slaps you in the face, right? Like, you're not going to be able to find a code for every situation to kind of spell out how you need to approach it and what you need to do. And so engineering judgment, seeing the intent of the code and safely working within that intent, I think is a huge, valuable skill that can solve a lot of problems and move things forward.
Isaac Oakeson: Perfect. I like it. How about this? What's a personal habit that you think has contributed to your success as an engineer?
Scott Denney: I don't know if it's a habit, but maybe just a curiosity. So, just always looking for maybe the next best thing and, and looking to stay on top of things. Always. I guess it would lend to your continuing education, right? As far as an engineer, things are evolving and you gotta know what's out there, you gotta know what's going on so that you can stay in front of it and be prepared for those things that are going to be thrown at you.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, for sure. Is there anybody that you look up to, or that you follow that, you know, this curiosity has gotten you following somebody or listening to somebody?
Scott Denney: Absolutely. I've taken an interest in Bill Gates and kind of watching him as he's stepped away from Microsoft and is now using those same skills that he used build it, just that ginormous empire, you know, and now he's using those skills and those same skills, those same capabilities in a very different way. In more of a philanthropic effort to help the world, you know? And I think that's really cool.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah, that is cool. Do you have any, I guess, going along those lines, is there any books or any resources you'd recommend for engineers?
Scott Denney: Still books, I would saythe CERM is awesome. Like, I guess I remember when I was preparing for the exam, like the CERM was kinda my go-to,
Isaac Oakeson: We agree with that. We're an affiliate with them. So if you go to PPI, use our little discount code, we made. It's CIVAC, and you get 15% off your book, so go grab it. I think they changed the name of it, though. They still use the acronym of CERM, but they changed the title. So it's like, maybe they need a new one. I don't know what it is.
Scott Denney: I didn't know that.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. They slightly changed the title. The company actually is owned by Kaplan now. So I think they changed things a little bit there, but CERM is a good one. Definitely a good one. If you have any others, let us know.
Scott Denney: The only other thing I'd say is like I did a PE review course and I thought it was very instrumental, I guess, in helping me get prepared. I went into it, between those two things, I went into it very, like a little nervous. I felt very well prepared, but still nervous, but I left this exam and I thought that was 10 times easier than I expected. And it was, it was a great feeling. So.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. That's great advice. You know, if you're studying for the exams, definitely look into a course and, you know, get the right resources. Those are definitely what you need to do. And then practicing problems like crazy.
Scott Denney: Yeah, absolutely.
Isaac Oakeson: That's going to set you above. So I guess kind of to wrap things up here. One of the fun questions I like to ask is like, if you had all the resources in the world, what's something you'd like to be a part of or work on as a civil engineer?
Isaac Oakeson: You know, I guess. I'll go back to my Bill Gates response, right? Like, I think if you had all the resources and knowledge, like that would be a way cool application. So like, something similar to engineers without borders, you know? Going down and, and applying that knowledge, your skills into bettering a different part of the world, you know? And bringing those things that we may take for granted, you know, those same benefits, to other people.
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah. I think that's a great idea. I see a lot of entrepreneurs and stuff that donate to like Pencils of Promise. And also engineering places where they're drilling wells and finding places for water. I think that's great stuff. So, yeah. Let's go ahead and end with this. What's the last piece of guidance or even the best way to contact you at Pikus or where can people reach out to you, Scott?
Scott Denney: Probably the easiest ways -- I'll just give you my personal email address, which is [email protected]
Isaac Oakeson: Excellent.
Scott Denney: Yeah, if you're interested. Yeah. I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have and whatnot.
Isaac Oakeson: That's great. And then what's, Pikus's website, If people want to check out 3D printing?
Scott Denney: So it's pikusconcrete.com, and Pikus is P I K U S. And we're working on building out our 3D side. And so you may not catch much of that on the website just yet. There's a couple of pictures in that, but --
Isaac Oakeson: It's coming.
Scott Denney: It's coming. Yes.
Isaac Oakeson: Can I ask how they came up with the name?
Scott Denney: Pikus?
Isaac Oakeson: Yeah.
Scott Denney: It's actually our owner's last name.
Isaac Oakeson: Oh, okay.
Scott Denney: It sounds original.
Isaac Oakeson: I was like, "Oh. That's pretty original". Something with concrete or printing. No. Okay.
Scott Denney: Yeah, hopefully that didn't disappoint you.
Isaac Oakeson: That doesn't disappoint. I still like the name. Still good.
Scott Denney: Cool.
Isaac Oakeson: Well, thanks for coming on the show. I think you provided a lot of value and I think our audience really liked it. So thanks for joining us.
Scott Denney: Okay. No problem. Thanks, Isaac.
Isaac Oakeson: See you later.
Scott Denney: All right, bye.
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