Photo of Cleo Pineda by Cebula Hall

“I wanted to emphasize how engineering concepts can be found everywhere in our everyday lives.” 

Cleo Pineda
Civil Engineering, Class of 2018

Rising senior and civil engineering major Cleo Pineda talks about how she created a short film, "Bring Concepts to Life," that placed second in the Structural Engineers Foundation of Washington's FilmWorks Initiative contest. 

Cleo Pineda, senior, civil engineering major and Lacey native, recently won the second-place prize in the Structural Engineers Foundation of Washington’s (SEFW) FilmWorks Initiative for her short film, "Bring Concepts to Life.” The FilmWorks Initiative was launched by SEFW to produce films that highlight the activities of structural engineers and support outreach to the public and to high school students and other prospective engineers.

Pineda is not a trained filmmaker. Talking about her technical proficiency with video shoots and editing, she insists, with humility, that her skill level is modest and somewhat unrefined. “Think of amateur,” she says. “And then think of below amateur.” She laughs. “I’ve made videos before, vlogs (video blogs) for my family of the trips that we take out to Ocean Shores or other places. But it’s just for fun.”

Early in the spring semester, Pineda noticed that Prof. Jill Walsh, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering, had posted the SEFW FilmWorks Initiative call for entries on the Saint Martin’s American Society of Civil Engineers Facebook group. “I thought it would be cool to try,” she says. She explained that she knew her class schedule and workload—particularly at the beginning of the semester—would allow her enough free time to try to complete a short film before the deadline.

Pineda’s production process was not painstaking or laborious, for the most part. The kernel of the project, she explained, came from the script she wrote for her voiceover narration, and from that starting point, she knew how she wanted to structure the video. “I wanted to emphasize how engineering concepts can be found everywhere in our everyday lives,” she says. “So I shot all the video on my iPhone, and some of the footage is actually from my daily activities. There are engineering concepts behind everything we do, we just don’t really think about it that way.”

In order to fully capture her ideas, however, Pineda needed to shoot some extra footage in Cebula Hall and around campus. Fortunately, Pineda’s older sister, Crizel, who attends Western Washington University, often comes home to Lacey on the weekends, and agreed to serve as co-star, assistant director, cinematographer, and production assistant for a Saturday shoot on Saint Martin’s campus. “Shout-out to my sister for helping me and spending her Saturday morning here,” Pineda says.    

Pineda had a clear direction in mind for her film. “A misconception I really dislike about engineering students is that we’re a bunch of people with calculators who don’t know how to interact with others,” she says. “And that’s completely wrong, because in our classes and our labs we’re taught to communicate our ideas every day: through our calculations, through our graphs, through diagrams and through our words.

“I wanted the film to be clear to someone who’s never stepped foot in an engineering course, because I wanted to let people know that they could do whatever they want to do,” she says. “If they see themselves as engineers, they can do it.”

This summer Pineda is working as an intern at Skillings Connolly Inc., a Lacey-based engineering consulting firm. There, she’s working on a number of projects—some related to stormwater treatment and others related to utility relocation—and learning software like MicroStation (a three-dimensional computer-aided design system used by engineers and architects). “It’s been really cool to see how what I’ve been learning in class applies to real life. The work that it takes to produce a project is very different from how I pictured, but it’s just as fun,” she says. 

Pineda's short film, "Bring Concepts to Life," is available to watch online here

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