Court awards damages to NCEES in exam theft case

The U.S. District Court in Puerto Rico has ruled in favor of NCEES in a civil suit involving damages exceeding $1 million. The judgment resulted from the case of a civil engineering licensure candidate who was found with recording and transmitting equipment during the October 2006 administration of the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam in the city of Mayaguez.

The candidate, Bethzaida Cameron Ortiz, was discovered during the afternoon session of the administration after a proctor noticed her unusual behavior. The chief proctor at the exam site confronted Cameron, 44, and discovered that the defendant was concealing a host of recording and transmitting devices within her jacket and handbag, including a wireless audio/video transmitter, a small video camera, a receiver, a pocket video recorder, a device used to connect video cameras to a television or computer, and battery packs.

Working with materials provided by law enforcement, NCEES determined that Cameron had recorded the Civil PE exam and established that Cameron had performed a similar operation with the FE exam, which records show she attempted in October 2005 at the same location. As a result of these exam breaches, NCEES had to remove all compromised material from its exam item banks, resulting in the damages awarded in the civil suit. In estimating damages, NCEES takes into account the time, travel, and work hours required of NCEES staff, psychometric consultants, and subject-matter experts who are involved with the development and review of exam content.

“Like any organization that develops standardized tests, NCEES’s most valuable asset is its intellectual property. When someone steals exam content, the effects are the same for us as they would be for a retail store that has its assets stolen,” said NCEES Executive Director Jerry T. Carter.

NCEES develops and enforces stringent policies to protect exam content, including limiting the materials candidates are allowed to bring to the exam site. Before attempting an NCEES exam, each candidate is required to sign a statement affirming that he or she will not copy or reveal any exam material.

Prior to the judgment in the civil suit, Cameron had been convicted of fraud in criminal court as a result of the incident. She is prohibited from attempting any NCEES exam in the future.

“The fact that we are a nonprofit that assists licensing boards means that this event in some way has affected everyone in the engineering and surveying professions and, ultimately, the public,” said Carter. “We are pleased that this judgment was reached and we are confident this will serve as a deterrent for anyone who might consider stealing exam content in the future.”

Contact: Bob Whorton, P.E., Manager of Compliance and Security


NCEES sees growth in engineering licensure exam candidates

The number of candidates attempting NCEES exams has risen in recent years, with a particularly sharp increase in candidates sitting for the Principles and Practice of Engineering examinations this year.

According to NCEES records, 26,193 candidates attempted the PE exam during the October 2008 and April 2009 exam administrations. This is more than a 5 percent increase from the previous year’s numbers and is the largest one-year increase in PE candidate numbers since the 1998–99 exam administrations.

While candidate numbers for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam did not show a similar one-year upswing, they continued a steady climb that has contributed to a 20 percent increase in candidate numbers over the past four years. More than 49,000 candidates attempted the FE exam in 2008–09. This coincides with NCEES efforts to promote awareness of the career benefits of engineering licensure among college students majoring in engineering. The awareness efforts highlight the higher salaries, professional prestige, and career versatility enjoyed by licensed professional engineers.

“The higher candidate numbers are probably due to several factors, including the economic downturn,” said NCEES Executive Director Jerry Carter. “In a tight job market, a professional title such as the P.E. can help set a candidate apart even in a crowded field of high achievers. The P.E. also opens the door for an engineer to pursue consulting or firm ownership.”

The FE exam is often the first step toward attaining the P.E. license. After passing the FE in college, the typical PE candidate then completes a four-year internship period before attempting the PE exam that corresponds to the candidate’s career discipline.

Contact: Jerry T. Carter, Executive Director


NCEES inks funding arrangement with National Museum of Surveying

The NCEES Board of Directors has agreed to provide funding for the National Museum of Surveying, which is planning to open this year in a new location in downtown Springfield, Illinois.

The $75,000 donation will be used to construct a 45-seat theater and to develop educational materials for students in grades K–12. The theater will feature a 60-inch high-definition display that will be used to highlight the history and evolution of surveying and mapping in the United States. The education materials, which will be segmented by education level, will be developed in conjunction with a series of teacher workshops to be held at the museum. For its contribution, NCEES will be awarded the naming rights for the theater.

“As a leader of the engineering and surveying professions, NCEES looks for opportunities to advance the public’s understanding of these professions,” said NCEES Executive Director Jerry Carter. “We feel that the National Surveying Museum has some exciting plans that will get many young minds interested in pursuing a career as a licensed surveyor, so we are happy to help them with funding.”

The National Museum of Surveying, which first opened in 1989, will reopen this year in a 10,000-square-foot space in Springfield. The museum will feature the new “Science on a Sphere” exhibit, which uses a high-tech video system to project satellite images of the Earth’s surface on a suspended sphere. It also will include exhibits about famous Americans who practiced surveying, including Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Lewis and Clark. The museum’s new location is just blocks away from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Contact: Jerry T. Carter, Executive Director


Licensure Exchange June 2009

Read the latest issue of Licensure Exchange, the NCEES publication dedicated to opinions and ideas regarding the licensure of engineers and surveyors.

Licensure Exchange June 2009 (PDF)

  • PE pass rates demonstrate importance of experience
  • The President’s Message: Zone meetings set the stage for successful Annual Meeting
  • Headquarters Update: NCEES prepares new look, services
  • Treasurer’s Report: Council’s fiscal outlook remains positive
  • ADA Amendments Act expands eligibility for accommodations
  • Revised architectural engineering exam specs introduced
  • Committee/Task Force Update
  • MBAs wrap up productive year

Browse the Licensure Exchange archives.


Licensure Exchange April 2009

Read the latest issue of Licensure Exchange, the NCEES publication dedicated to opinions and ideas regarding the licensure of engineers and surveyors.

Licensure Exchange April 2009 (PDF)

  • NCEES, ABET strengthen ties between education and licensure
  • ELSES restructured as division of NCEES
  • The President’s Message: Inaugural NCEES Engineering Award raises campus exposure for licensure
  • Licensure exemptions limit boards’ ability to protect public
  • NCEES revising structural exam
  • Q&A: Sustainable Building Design Task Force
  • Education task force releases response to 2008 resolution
  • Committee/Task Force Update
  • Bologna Accord promotes uniformity in European higher education

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NCEES revising structural engineering exam

NCEES will introduce a new 16-hour Structural Engineering exam in April 2011. The exam will replace the current Structural I and Structural II exams, which will be administered for the last time in October 2010.

NCEES Director of Exam Services Tim Miller, P.E., explained the need for the revision: “NCEES currently offers two 8-hour structural exams, and some licensing boards also use state-specific exams. NCEES wanted to provide one exam that could be used by any state requiring specialized structural licensure, even a state with high-seismic activity.”

To develop the new exam, NCEES surveyed licensed structural engineers from across the United States to find out what knowledge areas are most relevant to current professional practice. NCEES brought together representatives from state licensing boards and national structural engineering organizations to analyze the survey results and set the specifications, or content areas, for the new exam.

Miller is confident that the exam will be an effective measure of minimal competence for any state. “We’ve gone through a deliberate and rigorous process to develop the specifications, and the state boards that currently license structural engineers have been included in this process,” he said.

The new 16-hour Structural Engineering exam is divided into two 8-hour components, which will be offered on successive days. The Vertical Forces component focuses on gravity loads and incidental lateral loads. The Lateral Forces component focuses on wind and earthquake loads.

Each component of the exam has a breadth module that contains questions covering a comprehensive range of structural engineering topics. Each component also has a depth module that focuses more closely on a single area of practice. Examinees will choose whether they want to concentrate on buildings or bridges for this module.

To pass the exam, examinees must receive acceptable results on both the Vertical Forces and Lateral Forces components, but these components may be taken during different exam administrations.

The specifications for the new exam are posted on the NCEES Web site. NCEES will also publish a book of sample questions and solutions in 2010 to familiarize examinees with the new exam’s format and content areas.

“The changeover is still two years away, but it’s an important transition,” Miller said. “We want to give people as much advance notice as possible.”

Contact: Bruce Martin, P.E., Exam Development Engineer

Revised February 15, 2010


Executive director’s update on additional education requirement for engineering licensure

The issue of higher education requirements for engineering licensure candidates continues to be the focus of the Council’s deliberations as we move toward this spring’s zone meetings. The Engineering Education Task Force has completed an analysis of the impacts of the master’s or equivalent requirement and will be distributing this document to attendees of the zone meetings.

This document is a response to the resolution passed by the Council at last year’s Annual Meeting which asks the task force to analyze the professional, economic, educational, and regulatory impacts of the master’s or equivalent requirement set to go into effect in 2020. It also provides a list of several alternatives to the requirement that do not involve raising the minimum level of academic coursework.

The Council’s decision to introduce stricter education requirements has a long history of deliberation. Various committees and task forces have been involved in the consideration of the education requirements for licensure going back to 2001. In 2006, NCEES delegates passed a motion to draft Model Law language requiring candidates to complete 30 academic credits beyond an accredited bachelor’s degree (or earn a master’s degree) as a prerequisite for engineering licensure. Since then, members of the Council have wrestled with the specifics involved in implementing this requirement at the state level; they concluded that a stronger emphasis on requiring a master’s degree or its equivalent would be more practical for licensure candidates and the licensing boards.

While the Council is nearly unanimous in its desire to strengthen the education requirements for engineering licensure, many within the organization and throughout the engineering profession have expressed concern with the specifics of the master’s or equivalent requirement. The Engineering Education Task Force exists to address these concerns through consensus-building and consideration of many opinions from across the engineering community. I encourage everyone with a stake in these decisions to remain aware of the ongoing developments regarding this requirement.

Jerry T. Carter
NCEES Executive Director


FAMU-FSU wins 2009 NCEES Engineering Award

NCEES is pleased to announce that the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering of Florida A&M University–Florida State University is the grand prize winner of the 2009 NCEES Engineering Award for Connecting Professional Practice and Education. The award jury met March 12, 2009, in Clemson, S.C., to select the $25,000 grand prize winner.

The department received the prize for its submission, Senior Design Capstone Course: Collection of Projects with Featured Everglades Restoration Project. Through its capstone course, students learn about nontechnical professional issues, such as ethics, teamwork, and communication skills, and complete a design of a civil or environmental engineering project. Professional practitioners participate by giving classroom lectures, providing real-world design projects, mentoring students, and evaluating students’ results. The featured senior design project included student teams working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on two restoration projects in the Florida Everglades.

The jury praised the project for demonstrating “strong interactions of practitioners with the engineering faculty and students.”

The jury selected five additional prize winners, who will each receive an award of $7,500.

  • University of Arizona 
Department of Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics 
Submission: Practitioner-Led Engineering Experiences
  • University of Missouri–Kansas City 
Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering 
Submission: Redcone Civil Design Group: A Practitioner-Centric Capstone Experience
  • Seattle University 
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 
Submission: Structural Design Package for the Replacement of a County Bridge
  • University of Tennessee at Chattanooga 
Department of Civil Engineering 
Submission: Intermodal Transit Center
  • Virginia Tech 
Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 
Submission: Land Development Design Initiative
  • The University of Iowa’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering received an honorable mention for its submission, Pilot Program for Expanding Connections between Professional Practice and Education.

The NCEES Engineering Award recognizes engineering programs that demonstrate meaningful partnerships between professional engineers and students. All EAC/ABET-accredited engineering programs were invited to enter projects that demonstrated such a partnership.

The 28 submissions were judged by NCEES members and representatives from academic institutions and professional engineering organizations.

“This is the first year we’ve offered the award,” said NCEES Executive Director Jerry Carter. “We’re very pleased with the interest we’ve had so far, and we look forward to building on these efforts to bring professional engineers and students together.”

Read profiles of the winning projects.


Licensure Exchange February 2009

Read the latest issue of Licensure Exchange, the NCEES publication dedicated to opinions and ideas regarding the licensure of engineers and surveyors.

Licensure Exchange February 2009 (PDF)

  • Records growth persists during economic downturn
  • The President’s Message: Improving licensure requires dialogue, cooperation
  • Headquarters Update: Council prepares for future needs of licensure
  • 2009 Board Presidents’ Assembly
  • Exam reminders for 2009
  • October 2008 pass rates
  • NCEES seeks volunteers for chemical PAKS
  • Chinese delegation visits NCEES headquarters
  • Engineers encouraged to attend college fairs

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Licensure Exchange December 2008

Read the latest issue of Licensure Exchange, the NCEES publication dedicated to opinions and ideas regarding the licensure of engineers and surveyors.

Licensure Exchange December 2008 (PDF)

  • Licensure of engineering faculty—a difficult proposition?
  • Committee Update
  • The President’s Message: NCEES looks to expand role in promoting mobility for licensees
  • CBT Task Force already deep into information-gathering phase
  • Advisory council brings experience, expertise to Center operations
  • Headquarters Update: Meeting brings together MBAs and NCEES staff
  • NCEES proactive in defending assets during financial turmoil
  • National EWeek launches Million Hours Campaign

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