PENC Member Spotlight
Jonathan Ham, PE & Kelly Ham, PE
Jonathan works for Cape Fear Public Utility Authority
Kelly works for McKim & Creed in the Wilmington office
Jonathan and Kelly Ham have become great assets to the PENC community. Kelly has been extremely involved in the community outreach activities PENC supports for some time. This year, she has taken on the role of President of the Southeastern Chapter of PENC. In his first year of membership, Jonathan has already taken up several responsibilities - serving as the Membership Representative for the Southeastern chapter and the State Chair of the Communications committee.
Why did you become an engineer?
Jonathan: My father used to be a television repairman, and when school let out each day or during the summers I was always in his shop. He taught me electrical schematics and circuit board diagrams at a very young age. I also enjoyed math and science, and helping people. Becoming an engineer for me was the combination of all the things I enjoy. I also really enjoy seeing how things work. As a kid, I was always taking apart toys to see how they work. In my position at the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, I get to see the inside of water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, pump stations, and gravity sewer systems. I really have a great time working with everyone at CFPUA and serving the public by helping to provide for the water and wastewater needs of my community.
Kelly: Growing up, I enjoyed math and science and was fortunate to have teachers who encouraged my interest in those subjects. My eighth grade science teacher first piqued my interest in engineering. I also enjoy helping people and giving back to society and realized that engineering would allow me to help a multitude of people and make a significant positive difference. In fact, one of the most important things an engineer does is to protect the public.
I was also very fortunate to have encouraging engineering professors at NC State. I have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers and for the critically important service they provide to society. In order to meet the challenges of the future, we will need more engineers who are well prepared to solve the problems of the future. Education is key and a partnership between engineers and teachers at all levels is critical. That’s why initiatives like National Engineer’s Week, MathCounts, and Future Cities are so important. I would encourage you to volunteer for these worthy outreach opportunities if possible. You will enjoy it!
My senior design professor at NC State strongly encouraged me to take the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam and to pursue licensure. I have also been blessed to work at McKim & Creed, PA, with wonderful professional engineers who set great examples for me and encouraged me to earn my PE license.
What is your proudest engineering accomplishment?
Kelly: My proudest personal engineering accomplishment is obtaining my PE license. However, I am also proud of the many projects I’ve had a hand in at McKim & Creed. At McKim &Creed, I have been able to experience several of the things that I like most about engineering, including teamwork, helping people, and seeing my work “come to life.” One of the most memorable projects started with public meetings where residents brought jars of discolored water from their individual wells and discussed the need for public water. Following that meeting, the project team worked on the project through the initial feasibility stage , through the environmental planning stage, with the funding agency, through design and permitting, through the public bid stage, and then construction. There is something profoundly rewarding about being able to help people and see your work “come to life” at the same time.
Jonathan: My proudest accomplishment so far was having my family present as I received my Professional Engineering certificate earlier this year (2010). Probably a close second would be completing and giving my presentation for my Senior Design project at NC State. I graduated from the BAE Department, and my project was to construct a testing apparatus for the efficacy of canine stifle joint braces. We worked with professors from the College of Veterinary Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, and Industrial Engineering to build a 1:1 reproduction of a real dog’s leg (complete with a strain gauge inside the stifle joint to measure displacement). It looked awesome, worked to perfection, and our team did a really wonderful job presenting. I am still pretty proud of that accomplishment.
What is the most pressing problem engineers of the future face?
Jonathan: I think the most pressing problem facing engineers of the future will be in the arena of communications. Engineers as a profession tend to focus on the technical data, and far too often are not influential with their opinions to those who ultimately make the critical decisions. I hope that we engineers can increase our positive visibility, and create opportunities for our future professionals to be influential in making crucial decisions and moving our society forward.
Kelly: Engineers of the future will undoubtedly face a multitude of pressing problems related to infrastructure, energy, water, health, the environment, security, etc. (The list goes on and on). To determine which one is the most critical problem may depend on your perspective and what resources will be available to combat the problems. I believe future engineers will be well trained in technical skills to deal with the technical aspects of these problems. However, these challenges will require a multifaceted approach that is not purely technical in nature and that may be one of the most critical problems in itself. Engineers will need to be able to look at a problem from a multitude of perspectives and will need to be able to communicate with the general public, funding agencies, with decision makers, and professionals in other disciplines. Communication skills and other soft skills and “well roundedness” will be critically important to solving these future problems.
What is the best thing about being a PENC member?
Jonathan: I really enjoy the social aspects of PENC. In the past couple of years, I’ve met so many people from across the state, and from many different engineering backgrounds…all through PENC. The summer conference is by far my favorite event of the year, because you get to learn while you hang out with new friends. I’m really looking forward to the next conference!
Kelly: There are a myriad of benefits to being a PENC member, including outreach opportunities, the opportunity to earn PDH’s, networking with fellow engineers, and leadership opportunities to name just a few. One of my favorites is the people, especially the Southeastern Chapter (Wilmington area) members and leadership. They are a wonderful group of people to work with and generously volunteer their time. It is because of their efforts that the Southeastern Chapter has been able to accomplish all it has accomplished. I am grateful for their support of PENC. In addition to that, one of the most important benefits of PENC and one of the major reasons for its existence in my opinion is advocacy for professional engineers and protection of the PE license. PENC is the only organization in North Carolina whose specific mission is protecting the PE license. What professional engineer would not want to be associated with that?
What are your interests outside of engineering?
Jonathan: I love playing golf, walking my dogs on the beach, volunteering my time, and playing around with my computers. I guess I still love messing around with electronics, just like when I was a kid.
Kelly: I enjoy travel, walking on the beach, volunteering with students and animals, and spending time with my friends, family and dogs.