Mika Takes STEM Outreach and Community Volunteerism to Heart

December 5, 2014

Mika, Kenneth colorIn 2012, the ASCE Wisconsin Section Southeast Branch Younger Member Group decided to host a K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Expo at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). However, to finance this endeavor, the Planning Committee faced a major challenge in not only needing to raise a substantial amount of money but also to complete several major hurdles, included securing a facility, contacting vendors, planning all of the events, marketing a fundraiser to the community, and budgeting.

“We were able to raise over $8,500 for the event,” recalled Kenneth R. Mika, P.E., M.ASCE, a member of the original Planning Committee. “We had over 150 attendees and 120 volunteers [who] made the STEM Expo a success. In fact, the STEM Expo was such a great success [in September 2012] that the planning committee decided to continue to host future events now yearly.”

Mika, also a member of the 2014 Planning Committee for the second STEM event, which took place this past October 25, added, “I have been involved with outreach in the Milwaukee area, specifically working to introduce children to civil engineering and other STEM-related fields. [But the] one event that I have been most proud to be a part of is STEM Expo in Milwaukee. This is a regional event put on by a few ASCE members in the Milwaukee area, including myself, where we host an all-day event with interactive activity stations to encourage children to go into STEM-related fields.”

Mika’s volunteer efforts do not stop there. In the past 4 years he has also been part of the National Alliance of Mental Illness Walk, Corporate Capers, Earth Day Clean-Up, Future City, and food donations to Hope House of Milwaukee.

Actively involved in ASCE and the local community, Mika is currently secretary of the ASCE Wisconsin Section and Scholarship Director of the Wisconsin Section Southeast Branch. Over the past 4 years he has served as the Conference Planning Committee Chair for ASCE’s Wisconsin Spring Technical Conference (2013-2014), interim Director of the Southeast Branch on the Wisconsin Section Board (2014), Director of the Southeastern Branch Younger Member Group (2013-2014), President of the Southeastern Branch Younger Member Group (2012-2013), member of the Central Region Younger Member Council’s 2013 Conference Planning Committee (2011-2013), Vice President of the Southeastern Branch Younger Member Group (2011-2012), member of the 2011 Wisconsin Spring Technical Conference Planning Committee (2010-2011), and member of the 2010 Central Florida Field Trip Planning Committee for ASCE’s Florida Section East Central Branch Younger Members Forum (2009-2010).

“I am proud of the amazing opportunities that I have had in my career so far,” notes Mika, who for his professional contributions and accomplishments was named the Wisconsin Section’s 2014 Young Civil Engineer of the Year. “Six years ago when I first started working [professionally as a civil engineer], I would never have guessed the opportunities that I would be fortunate enough to be a part of.”

As an environmental engineer with Natural Resource Technology, Inc., Mika has worked on several significant projects, including, presently, project manager and design engineer for an in situ solidification/stabilization (ISS) project in eastern Wisconsin. Among his responsibilities are working with a team to lead a field investigation, designing an ISS and soil excavation remedy, working with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and state regulatory agencies on negotiating a final remedy, bidding the project out to a general contractor, and leading the field team to oversee the work for the client.

“By working as an environmental engineer,” says Mika, who has worked on several other USEPA environmental projects (including a $77 million sediment restoration and habitat revitalization project in Lake County, Indiana; a $17 million sediment dredging project in southern Michigan, and 2 multimillion-dollar dredging projects in Wisconsin), “I am able to get the word out there that civil engineers can also give back to their community by cleaning up environmentally impacted sites instead of just building roads, bridges, buildings, and other infrastructure-type work.

“I get excited that I can work with other people who share my ideals about cleaning up the environment and giving back to the community. It’s very gratifying.”

Mika concluded, “For my career, I think the recognition as a New Face of Civil Engineering [equals] encouragement and motivation to continue working hard at becoming a confident civil engineer in my future career endeavors. I feel the recognition provides me the energy to further my career and ASCE involvement.”

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