2011-09-08 / Front Page

Local motivation

Engineer on new ferries inspired by Port Aransas teachers Marek, Page
DAN PARKER
REPORTER


With his work Steve Harris stands aboard one of the two new ferries that began operating in Port Aransas this summer. Harris, who lived in Port Aransas as a child, was the lead structural eningeer in the construction project that produced the ferries. He lives near Darrington, Wash. 
STAFF PHOTO BY DAN PARKER With his work Steve Harris stands aboard one of the two new ferries that began operating in Port Aransas this summer. Harris, who lived in Port Aransas as a child, was the lead structural eningeer in the construction project that produced the ferries. He lives near Darrington, Wash. STAFF PHOTO BY DAN PARKER Steve Harris is an engineer who has been involved in design and modification work of hundreds of ocean-going vessels and petroleum industry structures over a career that has spanned 27 years so far.

He has been project engineer in many multi-milliondollar projects, including several offshore production platforms, a $24 million diving support vessel, several tanker ship modernization projects and a 100-foot-high buoy that generates electricity with wave energy.

He was the lead structural engineer involved in the construction of two new multimillion dollar ferries that arrived in Port Aransas this past summer.

And he says it was Port Aransas teachers who first inspired him, as a youngster, to enjoy math and science – areas of interest that led him become an engineer.

Harris, 49, is a project manager and senior structural engineer at Elliott Bay Design Group, the Seattle-based firm that designed the Michael W. Behrens and the Charles W. Heald. Both ferries went into service in Port Aransas July 1.

“I like my work, because it requires creativity on very interesting projects worldwide,” said Harris, who lives in near Darrington, Wash., and has traveled on business to places including Scotland, Spain, South Africa, the Canary Islands, Denmark, Norway, India, Panama, Galapagos Islands, Japan, Singapore, India, and Alaska. (He still visits Port Aransas often, to see old friends and do some fishing.) “He’s vital in our company,” said Brian King, vice president of engineering at Elliott Bay Design Group. “He leads our structural design and structural analysis.”

King said Harris is at the helm of the company’s work in computational fluid dynamics, which King described as “virtually testing a vessel’s flow, resistance and power, on a computer. It’s a very complex process developed in aerospace, primarily. But we apply it to our designs, so our vessels operate efficiently.”

Harris and his family moved to Port Aransas in 1973, when he was about 11 years old. The family purchased Bilmore Courts in 1974 and renamed it Sportsmans Lodge a few years later.

Harris’s mother and father, Mary and George Harris, sold the cottages in 1993 and moved away from Port Aransas in 1997. Mary died in 2008. George is retired and living in Hallettsville.

Harris attended H.G. Olsen Elementary School from sixth to eighth grades, in the 1970s, before the school’s upper classes became known as Brundrett Middle school.

In middle school, teachers Doyle Marek and Chris Page “were my original inspiration in math and science,” Harris said. “That is why I went into engineering.”

Page died in 2007. Marek is retired and living in George West.

“Mr. Marek taught me to solve math problems quick, using memory rather than looking (information) up in math books,” Harris said. “I remember the speed math quizzes we took and thought those were awesome.” There was no high school in Port Aransas at the time he completed eighth grade. At that time, most high school-age kids in Port Aransas commuted to Aransas Pass High School or Flour Bluff High School. Harris went to Flour Bluff.

Harris said his biggest inspiration to go into a marine career was David Bartling, a Port Aransas resident who long taught oceanography at Flour Bluff High School. Harris graduated from Flour Bluff High School in 1979, earned a bachelor of science degree in ocean engineer- ing at Texas A&M University in 1983.

Harris formally registered as a Texas professional civil engineer in 1989. He lived and worked in Houston until he accepted a position with Elliott Bay Design Group in 1998.

Does he have any advice for kids who might be interested in becoming marine engineers?

“They’ve got to stick to science and math, like I did,” Harris said. “It’s the only avenue to get there. It’s all physics.”

Picking out the right summer job would also be a good idea. As a teen-ager, Harris took jobs serving as a deckhand and dock boy on the Port Aransas waterfront.

“Whatever job you get in the summer, it should be something related in the direction you want to do (as a career),” Harris said. “I worked on the waterfront every summer, and I got in a few of the ships and boats’ engine compartments.”

Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or dan@portasouthjetty.com.

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