City Light Project Earns Seattle U Engineering Team National Award

In 2016-2017, a project team of four of Seattle University students took on an engineering challenge from Seattle City Light to determine the capacity of the Ross Dam Intake Access Bridge at the Skagit Hydroelectric Project, an essential structure to conduct maintenance operations at Ross Dam. Last month, Seattle U was selected as one of this year’s National Council of Examiners for Engineering Surveying (NCEES) Engineering Education Award recipients for their work.

The project team: Front Row L-R: Chris Belson, Yashar Zafari, Delton Oki (students)
Second Row L-R: James Esteban (student), Josh Pugh Ph.D., PE (faculty advisor)
Third Row: Dan O’Sullivan (City Light)


The Seattle U Engineering Design Team was tasked by City Light to determine the current capacity of the bridge as well as to design an economical solution to strengthen the bridge to safely carry the types of vehicles typically needed by City Light to conduct maintenance, such as a large crane. The team of civil engineering seniors and their faculty advisor Dr. Joshua Pugh met and collaborated with City Light’s Dan O’ Sullivan and Dave Rowan throughout the academic year to determine possible engineered solutions to address the issues with the bridge. The students then presented the solutions to City Light for consideration.

“The year-long project with City Light is an excellent opportunity for Civil Engineering seniors to work on a real-life project under the mentorship of City Light engineers,” explains Dr. Nirmala Gnanapragasam, associate professor at Seattle University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The City Light engineers help the students learn how to apply the technical knowledge gained through coursework to analyze the problem and develop a solution while developing important professional skills before entering the engineering workforce. The engineers from City Light, specifically Robert Cochran, Owen Kohashi and Dan O’Sullivan, who sadly passed away, have been dedicated mentors to our students and have developed strong relationships with our civil engineering faculty.”

Another project team from SU was also recognized by NCEES for the design of a culvert replacement in Snohomish County making it fish passable. Click here to learn more about Seattle University’s NCEES awards.




Seattle City (spot)Light: Desmond Chan

Transmission System Planner Desmond Chan has worked at City Light for 27 years. “Time flies,” Desmond exclaimed. “I began as an engineering aide in vegetation management. I did that for a year before taking the Civil Service Exam to become an Electrical Engineering Specialist. After that, I was offered two jobs; I could either be an inspector or a mapper. I chose the mapping route because I knew I would like to further my studies with that work schedule.”

And further his studies he did. Desmond completed his electrical engineering degree at the University of Washington (UW), while working full-time at the utility. Desmond didn’t stop there as he continued his studies at UW, earning a master’s degree.

Originally from Hong Kong, Desmond has lived in the Northwest for 30 years. “I still remember the day I came here,” Desmond shared. “It was December 3, 1988 which was a particularly foggy day in Seattle, “It was so foggy that they re-routed us to San Francisco, which became my first port of entry. My parents were waiting all day at SeaTac for me. I ended up showing up much later—I’ll never forget it.”

Desmond lives on Mercer Island with his wife of nearly 30 years, Fung (a fellow City Light employee). They have two children, Rachel and Austin. In this week’s (spot)Light, Desmond shares what he loves about the utility.

Desmond and Fung at Mount Evans Colorado

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked to explore and fix stuff. I also like electronics, hi fi audio and enjoy working on computers. It’s fun to help my friends with their computers; I see it as a means for socializing. I also like camping with my family. We like to go razor clam digging at Ocean Shores.”

“In Hong Kong, I worked in construction as a Quantity Surveyor. I didn’t like it, so I moved to the United States to pursue another career. Seattle is the first city I stayed in after moving here. It’s my American dream. I got into this field because I was looking for a challenge and electrical engineering fit the bill. I was always good in math and engineering seemed like a logical career path.”

“Being a System planner is a continuous effort; it’s more than just a single project. We have many different tasks. Our system is interconnected throughout the West Coast, so we need to study it continuously. Whatever happens to us also affects our neighbors.”

“I really like the people at City Light. We spend a lot of time at work, more so than what we do at home. Life isn’t about making money; it’s about relationships and enjoying how you spend your time. At City Light, we take care of each other. When my father passed away 20 years ago, my director approved time-off, so my colleagues could be at the service. They all carpooled together and showed up in support of my family. The same thing happened when my mom passed away. Even when I moved from Federal Way to Mercer Island, my colleagues were there. They showed up to help me; they knew how frantic I was. Those moments meant a lot to me. I’m part of a family which makes me feel really good about working here.”



Seattle City (spot)Light: Elias Gebreslasie

Electrical Engineer Elias Gebreslasie has been at City Light since 1999. As part of the Energy Delivery Engineering division, Elias is part of the Network Services group where he works on the front line with City Light customers. “I work with customers who apply for power,” Elias explained. “Whenever someone wants to build a new house or apartment building, they must work with us to determine the amount of electricity that’s needed for the project. We design and install the transformers that distribute power for our customers.”

Elias was born in northeastern Africa, but has lived in Seattle for 27 years. He attended the University of Washington and received a degree in Electrical Engineering. “I was planning to study medical, but the language barrier was very challenging,” Elias shared. “I was always good in math and physics so decided to study electrical engineering. I also knew that there was a wide chance of job opportunity in this field.”

Elias lives in Lynnwood with his wife Elsa and his three boys Mossa, Zekhri and Sham. In this week’s (spot)Light, Elias talks about his journey to the U.S. and shares about his role here at the utility.

Elias (top left) with his family in Dubai

“I’m from Eritrea in northeastern Africa. There was a 30-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and I fought against the communist regime. Because of my political views, I was imprisoned and was forced to escape. I ended up in Sudan and through a refugee program was able to come to the United States. Seattle was my port of city and I’ve been here since 1991.”

“One attribute of the Northwest that I really like is the cooler weather. I come from a very hot region, so the rain and cooler environment is something I enjoy. The landscaping here is beautiful. It’s a good place to live with a lot of activities. I like to go target shooting near Woodinville. I play soccer with my sons. I also go running four days a week—it doesn’t matter if it’s raining. I make sure to get out there. I also like to cook. My specialty is an Eritrean dish Zigni. It’s spicy!”

“I’m a family-oriented person which is one of the reasons I like working at City Light. It offers a nice work-life balance and stability for my family. It has a good working environment. I refer to my work group as brothers, like part of my family. It’s a good group with strong friendships. There is also diversity. I have a different background and culture as do many others here. It’s nice to connect with others in that regard. I really enjoy working with the people here.”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Shayan Arya

Network Electrical Engineer Shayan Arya has been at City Light since 1999. “I’m part of the services group within Energy Delivery Engineering,” Shayan explained. “Customers come to us with new plans for a new building, for instance a high-rise. They give us their requirements and, based on that, we design their vaults. We also install their transformers and give them power.”

Originally from Iran, Shayan has lived in Seattle since 1984, but did move to California for eight years before returning to the Pacific Northwest. He attended the University of Washington and transferred to Washington State University where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. He lives in Sammamish with his wife of nearly 30 years, Elizabeth. Together, they have one son Shahdaad.

In this week’s (spot)Light, Shayan talks about his interest in engineering and his hobbies.

Electrical Engineer Shayan Arya

“Since we first moved to Northwest, we’ve always had lots of friends and family in the area. My wife’s family is nearby which is nice. We also travel a lot. We usually go to Europe or the Caribbean. We’ve been to St. Croix, St. Thomas and the Cancun area. I’m also heavily concentrated on politics. It’s a very important to me. I write articles, I go to Washington to lobby, I’ve testified in front of Congress—I do all kinds of things on the side.”

“I was always good at math. Electrical engineering was interesting to me and I liked power, so I pursued that route. What I like about the job itself is that every project is different, which keeps things interesting. In this role, I get to work with each customer, different crews, many architects; we all work to come up with a solution that works for the building and that works for us. The relationships we have with our crews, with our customers and the customer representatives is very good. Network engineering is a well-oiled machine.”

“I worked for consulting firms in Southern California before coming back to Seattle. I wanted to work at City Light because I knew it was a good company. I had never worked for a utility, so I wanted to have that experience. I like working in the network. All the network jobs are interesting: the big jobs, small ones and midsize ones are all interesting in their own ways. Right now, my work includes a variety of projects, including Amazon buildings, all of South Lake Union and the future Denny Network area along with the Washington Convention Center.”

Seattle City (spot)Light: Nima Miri

Distribution Planning Engineer Nima Miri has been at the utility for nearly four years. “Our team looks at systems at a very high level, scopes out the project and then transfers to distribution engineering to implement the next step,” Nima explained. “We’re the planners.”

Born in Tallahassee, Florida, Nima spent most of his childhood in America and lived several years in Iran. “I was exposed to both cultures,” Nima shared. He studied engineering at Edmonds Community College and went on to receive a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Washington, with a focus on power systems. He’s been in the Northwest for 19 years and currently resides in south Everett with his wife Marina and their two sons, Michael and Adrian.

Nima with his family

“My role involves many different tasks which lends itself to interesting projects. One of my responsibilities is to model the electric distribution system. Based on that, I perform several system studies such as large customer impact studies to figure out how we can serve those customers on a system level. I also examine the reliability of our systems. These studies lead into the creation of different projects that address system deficiencies. I also calculate the ratings for equipment and system elements and prepare the small area load forecast for circuits, substations and the general area, which I really enjoy.”

“I finished high school in Iran which gave me a very strong mathematics background. When I returned to the U.S., my parents encouraged me to consider the Pacific Northwest. I had some family in this area, so it seemed like a good choice. I love the nature and the beauty of the Puget Sound area. I also really love the cultural diversity which is why I think my parents recommended Seattle.”

“Because I’m an electrical engineer, I’m really into audio systems. I can call myself an audiophile. I spend enough time on it to get my wife upset. There are others here at the utility with a similar interest, so sometimes we get together to refurbish equipment. I also like to study languages on my free time. I’m learning Russian right now. I speak Farsi and English fluently, but also know basic Arabic and Russian. My wife’s family is from Russia which serves as the inspiration for learning it.”

“My wife has a large family as do I, so our house turns into the hub for family gatherings around the holidays and other occasions. That’s always interesting to see. Different people, different cultures, different languages intersecting. Actually, that’s what I like most about working at City Light—the diversity in our workplace, in all aspects. With my middle eastern background, this is my first job after 9/11 where I don’t have to regularly answer questions about religion or what I believe. That’s what I really like about working here.”