PRISM - American Society for Engineering Education - 2005 ASEE Annual Conference - June 12-15 - Portland, Oregon February 2005 - 2005 Annual Conference Issue
Special Double Issue: FEBRUARY 2005
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Discover Portland

By Dee Anne Finken


ON THE COVER: Discover Portland: 2005 ASEE Annual Conference. June 12-15 - Portland, OregonSummer in Portland means dazzling blue skies, fluffy white clouds, and a bright blue sky over a green valley rimmed with tree-covered mountains and hills. And thanks to the northern hemisphere’s tilt, daylight extends to nearly 10 p.m. Typically, tank tops, shorts, and sandals are the uniform of choice in mid-June, when ASEE is holding its annual convention.

Sometimes called the Rose City for the magnificent roses that should be blazing with color just as the conference kicks off, it’s a place sure to interest engineers. Take the bridges, for example. There are a dozen or so real stunners, including the Hawthorne, a two-tower lift bridge built in 1910—and one of the world’s oldest still-operating lift bridges. And some 50 miles to the northwest, there’s Mount St. Helens, which has been belching in recent months. Who knows what it will be doing by the time June rolls around. This smoldering volcano is a must-see. (See ASEE tours). Moreover, the state’s largest city—which has a reputation for being laid back, environmentally astute, and progressive—is laden with museums, casual cafes, art galleries, and the world’s smallest park. Mill Ends Park, which is located in the middle of a busy street, measures just 24 inches across.

Portland is also a place rife with new ways to improve systems, make equipment function more smoothly, and tackle a variety of challenges—from crossing rivers to brewing better beer to dealing with an onslaught of rain water. Time and again, wise engineering decisions and projects have paid off in Portland. From the creation of the Bonneville Dam that has provided low-cost electricity since 1938, to the dedication 150 years ago of the Park Blocks, a mile of towering trees and grass in the middle of the city.

Water has played a role from the city’s start as a rustic logging town to its status as a world port, despite being 78 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is so important to Portlanders that leaders in the early 1970s ripped out Harbor Drive, a downtown freeway that blocked access to the scenic Willamette. In its place, they created Tom McCall Waterfront Park, 22 blocks of greenery and trails where Portlanders walk, skate, run, sunbathe, watch boat traffic, and participate in a variety of events, including the Rose Festival, Cinco de Mayo, political rallies, Portland Pride, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Race for the Cure, the Waterfront Blues Festival, and Oregon Brewers Festival.

Portland Skyline

The city is positioned at the confluence of two rivers, the Willamette and the Columbia, which marks Portland’s northern boundary with Washington state. The Willamette comes up from the south and spills into the Columbia northwest of Portland, but before doing so, it slices north and south through the city, delineating addresses east and west.

Legendary bridge-builder Gustav Lindenthal, who linked New Jersey and New York City with the impressive Hell Gate Bridge over the East River, designed Portland’s semi-continuous cantilever Ross Island Bridge and was chief engineer on the double-leaf bascule draw-span Burnside Bridge. Both bridges were built in 1926. Even more dramatic are the others—the Broadway, Burnside, Fremont, Marquam, Morrison, Oregon City, Ross Island, St. John’s, Sellwood, and the Interstate, linking Portland with Vancouver, Wash. Most of Portland’s bridges can be crossed by foot and by bike—as well as by vehicle. Another up-close view of the bridges is on a Portland Spirit brunch, lunch, or dinner cruise (See ASEE tours), or for those who prefer travel at a faster clip, on a jet-boat tour (

The Dining District

One of modern day’s greatest chefs was born and raised here. James Beard spent summers as a child on the Oregon coast gobbling up bushels of local produce and fruits and fresh catches of the day. He never prepared food for the public in Portland as an adult, but Oregonian reviewer Bob Hicks and others are quick to note the master’s link with the region. That’s because Portland’s chefs and restaurateurs—just like Beard—have learned to cultivate the best of what’s local, Hicks says. “Open any of the food magazines and there is always something about Portland.”

Eating fresh, local, and upscale is best experienced at Bluehour, (250 NW 13th Ave., 226-3394); packing ‘em in in the Pearl District are the Heathman Restaurant and Bar (1001 SW Broadway at Salmon Street, 790-7752), and Higgins (1239 SW Broadway, 222-9070), where chefs Philippe Boulot and Greg Higgins make magic.

Larry Button, catering director at the London Grill (309 SW Broadway, 295-4110), in the venerable Benson Hotel, notes quality dining in Portland spans the range. “You’ve got great steak houses like the Ringside (2165 W. Burnside, 223-1513), El Gaucho (319 SW Broadway, 227-8794), and Morton’s (213 SW Clay St., 248-2100), and then there’s everything in the Pearl District to big corporation-owned places, too.” The City Grill, left, (111 SW Fifth Ave., 450-0030) can’t be overlooked—in more ways than one. On the 30th floor of the U.S. Bancorp Tower—known as Big Pink—City Grill serves great steaks and seafood with spectacular views of downtown and Mt. Hood.

In the Pearl, you can’t go wrong with Little Wing Café (529 NW 13th Ave., 238-3101) simple lunches to full dinners; Byways Café (1212 NW Glisan St., 221-0011), inexpensive Americana; P.F. Chang’s China Bistro (1139 NE Couch St., 432-4000); Ristorante Fratelli (1230 NW Hoyt St., 241-8800); Le Bouchon (517 NW 14th Ave., 248-2193); Andina (1314 NW Glisan St., 228-9535), Peruvian and more; Sungari Pearl (1105 NW Lovejoy St., 971-222-7327) elegant Chinese; and Holden’s (524 NW 14th Ave., 916-0099) quality and class.

Back along Northwest 21st and 23rd avenues, try Caffe Mingo (807 NW 21st Ave., 226-4646), Italian bistro; Lucy’s Table (706 NW 21st Ave., 226-6126), romantic; Marrakesh Moroccan Restaurant (1201 NW 21st Ave., 248-9442); Paley’s Place (1204 NW 21st Ave., 243-2403); Tuscany Grill (811 NW 21st Ave., 243-2757); Wildwood Restaurant & Bar (1221 NW 21st Ave., 248-9663); Besaw’s Café (2301 NW Savier St., 228-2619); and Papa Haydn (701 NW 23rd Ave., 228-7317).

Across the Willamette River, there’s Chez Jose (2200 NE Broadway St., 280-9888); Milo’s City Café (1325 NE Broadway St., 288-6456); Pastini Pastaria (1426 NE Broadway, 288-4300); Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine (3135 NE Broadway St., 281-8337); and Yuki Japanese Restaurant (1337 NE Broadway, 281-6804).

You must dial the number 1 and the 503 prefix before the phone number when placing a local telephone call within the Portland area.


In the Neighborhood

Portland is a collection of intertwined neighborhoods. East of the Willamette, you’ll find both upscale and casual cafes, bookstores and shops in the Hawthorne and Hollywood districts, while antiquing is hot in Sellwood to the south. Many Portlanders make their homes east of the Willamette in the older but very pleasant Irvington and Mt. Tabor neighborhoods, the latter built upon an extinct volcano.

West of the Willamette, downtown is where you’ll find Portland’s handful of skyscrapers, housing banking centers, bigger business firms, and government offices. In between the bigger buildings are plenty of both the classy and casual restaurants that make Portland such a diner’s delight. Still west of the Willamette, head over to the Pearl district, the Cultural District, and trendy Northwest 23rd for museums, art studios, coffee houses, and more brassy restaurants. Some of Portland’s nicest homes are in the Southwest, the West Hills, and Sylvan areas.

In addition to the terraced Portland International Rose Test Garden, (See ASEE tours) where 10,000 rose bushes are ablaze, Washington Park also features the Hoyt Arboretum, miles of hiking trails, six tennis courts, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Oregon Holocaust Memorial, the World Forestry Center (, the Children’s Museum (, the Japanese Garden (see ASEE tours), and Pittock Mansion.

You’re not likely to be alone in the rose garden. Hundreds of thousands of admirers visit annually, their numbers peaking in June and July. From the garden in Washington Park above the city, views of Mt. Hood and the city skyline are so stunning they are routinely captured on postcards. Don’t be surprised to see a wedding or two taking place between rows of roses, either.

The park is also home to the Oregon Zoo, ( which draws more than 1 million visitors annually. Zoo conservation programs save endangered California condors, Oregon silver spot butterflies, western pond turtles, Washington pygmy rabbits, Oregon spotted frogs, Asian elephants, polar bears, and bats.

Washington Park is a 130-acre maze of forests and hills, a miniversion of the region’s overall stunning geography and physical beauty. Portland itself has 200 parks, including 5,000-acre Forest Park, the largest wilderness park within a city’s boundaries in the nation. Rain and shine, walkers and runners frequent its trails. From Washington Park down to the city center, residents often gather in Pioneer Courthouse Square, an urban park known as Portland’s living room, and recognized by Time magazine as one of the nation’s “10 most notable design achievements.”

One of Portland’s most cultivated green spaces is the Classical Chinese Garden, ( at Northwest 3rd and Everett streets. Open year-round, the Ming Dynasty-style garden features a rich landscape, covered walkways, bridges, pavilions, and open colonnades.

Continuing east of the Willamette is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (omsi), one of the nation’s top 10 science museums. Sixty years old, the 219,000-square-foot museum features hundreds of interactive exhibits and demonstrations and houses the Northwest’s largest planetarium. At the museum’s back dock is the USS Blueback, the last of the fast-attack diesel submarines, featured in the film Hunt for Red October. OMSI also sports a five-story OMNIMAX Theater, where the film Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West plays through June 2005. The science museum is the site of the ASEE annual picnic, one of the conference’s highlights.

Those who arrive June 11, a day before the conference, might try to catch one of Portland’s largest crowd-pleasing events. The Grand Floral Rose Parade is the highlight of the Rose Festival, the multievent party that invigorates Portland the first two weeks in June. Other Rose Festival activities include the Fleet Week display of big Navy ships, dragon boat races, art shows, running and walking races, a nighttime parade, a daytime junior parade, fireworks, a festival of the bands, a jazz band classic, coronation of the Rose Festival Queen, and entertainment, food, and amusement rides for all ages day and evening (June 2-12) along the Willamette River’s Waterfront Village.

Oregon Convention Center

Don’t fret if you don’t arrive early enough for the big parade. From 2-9 p.m. the flowered floats are on display at the Lloyd Center Cinemas parking lot, just a few blocks from the Oregon Convention Center. The Showcase of Floats continues from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday as well. Admission is $3.

Max Light RailGetting around Portland is a piece of cake. Smaller-than-usual city blocks make Portland a walker’s paradise. One-way streets are common downtown and plenty of people prefer to pedal, even in the rain. TriMet, Portland’s mass transit, featuring 93 bus lines and a 44-mile light rail system known as MAX, carries more people than any other U.S. transit system its size. MAX rides are free in the 330 block downtown Fareless Square—which includes the area around the convention center, site of the conference. One of MAX’s most impressive features is the Washington Park stop, which, 260 feet below ground, is North America’s deepest subway station. Only Moscow, Russia, has a deeper station. When they built the station and Robertson Tunnel to its west in the late 1990s, engineers bored an impressive three miles through the West Hills.

Beyond the City

Although the city itself is plenty green, nature lovers will definitely want to explore outside the city. East of Portland is 11,253-foot Mt. Hood, snow-capped year round, and where die-hard skiers and snowboarders take to the slopes even in the summer. And within 100 miles of city center are ancient rain forests, three mountains topping 10,000 feet, the Pacific Ocean, the greatest concentration of high waterfalls outside Yosemite National Park, and 11 federally designated wilderness areas with wild river canyons, Alpine lakes, and mountain streams.

Portland Skyline and Mt. Hood

For airplane buffs, the Evergreen Aviation Museum will be of particular interest. There, you’ll be able to view vintage World War II planes and step inside the cargo area of Howard Hughes’ famous “Spruce Goose.” (See ASEE tours). Another fun side-trip is to the city of Aurora, an hour or so from Portland. Known as Oregon’s “antique capital,” the city has more than 20 antiques shops. (See ASEE tours)

The Portland area is also known for its fine wines. You might want to check out Oregon’s only sake plant and winery. (See ASEE tours). You can watch sake being made and sample cold sake. Warm sake is only for common folks.

Engineering Haven

Portland is really a place where ideas, new products, and new technologies are just rampant,” says Robert Dryden, dean of engineering and computer science at Portland State University (PSU). When Dryden relocated from Virginia Polytechnic University 10 years ago, he witnessed firsthand the activity of the Silicon Forest, the cluster of Portland high-tech companies that originated with Tektronix and Electro Scientific Industries, and later Intel.

In the late 1990s, Oregon’s state legislature gave industry and education a big shot in the arm when it voted to match industry contributions to build scores of new laboratories and education centers on state campuses. That strong support for engineering continues today, as evidenced by the fact that the largest gift in PSU history—$8 million—is for engineering education. Donated by Fariborz Maseeh, an Iranian immigrant who earned degrees in structural engineering and mathematics at the university, the money will build PSU’s Northwest Center for Engineering, Science, and Technology.

Good engineering, and thoughtful sustainable growth and development have long been a part of Portland. It’s a place where engineers should feel right at home.

For more information on ASEE tours, please click here.

Dee Anne Finken is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.


Discover Portland
Conference at a Glance
Conference Highlights
Technical Program
Professional & Family Tours
Expo Floor Plan (PDF)
Ticketed Sessions (PDF)
Registration Information
Map (PDF)
General/Housing Information
Board of Directors/Host Committee Meetings & Convention Staff
Technical Sessions, Workshops, and Ticketed Events Identification Number Guide
Division/Council Listings
Future Annual Conference Dates and Sites
Hotel and Conference Registration Forms


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