Concrete canoes that float. Steel bridge models that hold 2,500 pounds. Over a thousand civil engineers in one place. This is how Becca Kiriazes, University of Florida (UF) student and conference coordinator, described this year’s American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Southeast Regional Conference.
Months of planning and teamwork helped to prepare the UF ASCE chapter for three jam-packed days of putting their engineering skills to the test—building bridges, developing and racing concrete canoes and ultimately, hosting 26 universities and 1,200 students for this year’s ASCE Southeast Regional Conference, “Engineering for the Elements.”
The conference, held in Gainesville over a span of three days, from Thursday, March 1st through Friday, March 3rd, , involved competitions and activities scattered throughout the city from Depot Park to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and from the Phillip’s Center for the Performing Arts to Lake Wauburg.
The UF ASCE chapter triumphed at this year’s conference, bringing home second place overall. The chapter trailed closely behind the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, with a total combined score of 381.69 (compared to Puerto Rico’s score of 383.38), landing only 0.4% behind Puerto Rico.
“This is, perhaps, the closest margin for an overall conference win in ASCE history,” said Dr. Robert Thieke, UF civil and coastal engineering department head and concrete canoe team faculty advisor. “Coming in second place (out of a total of 27 schools—UF included) while also playing host to the conference was no easy feat. This was a very prestigious honor for our chapter to achieve.”
In major competition categories, the chapter took home first place in concrete canoe—an event that involves teamwork, camaraderie and spirited competition in designing, constructing and racing a concrete canoe. Participants were evaluated in the following categories—design paper, final product, oral presentation and overall racing.
“The journey was grueling, demanding hundreds of hours to achieve something as close to perfection as possible,” said Nathan O’Donnell, concrete canoe team co-captain. “This year’s team was completely new and what we accomplished was thought to be impossible. We triumphed through teamwork, dedication and passion.”
UF ASCE also took home third place in steel bridge—an event that requires participants to construct a steel bridge structure, evaluated by factors such as construction speed, lightness, stiffness, construction economy, structural efficiency and overall performance.
Additional victories were earned by UF ASCE in the following categories—concrete horseshoes (1st place), orienteering (3rd place), geowall (1st place), dynamic dam (1st place) and concrete cylinder (1st place).
The chapter will advance to the nationals in both steel bridge and concrete canoe at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (May 25-26, 2018) and San Diego State University (June 23-25, 2018), respectively. A special thank you to Dr. Mark Newman, UF ASCE faculty advisor, and Ryan Casburn, Becca Kiriazes and Mary Sullivan, student organizing committee, for participating in nearly one year of planning, fundraising and event organization to make this conference possible.