A student competition organized by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering attracted some 800 participants from 24 Southeastern U. S. universities and also some international participants, such as the Tongji University of Shanghai in China.
The 2007 Southeast Region Student Conference hosted by the University of Tennessee American Society of Civil Engineers included a variety of activities and events allowing students to test their skills and knowledge in civil engineering. The competition, planned by the SRSC’s local chapter, took place from March 29 to 31 at the Knoxville Convention Center, UT campus and the Cove at Concord Park.
ASCE Conference Coordinator Rebecca Lind, a graduate student in civil engineering, was responsible for all liaisons with the various universities engaged in the conference. “The teams competing in the events first give a planning and design oral presentation at the Convention Center before they show their engineering prowess in the convention hall and park,” she said.
Several teams made it to the ASCE regional semifinal including universities from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. Ben Tatum, a senior in civil engineering and a team captain, said he and his colleagues had been working on the concrete canoe competition since last October. He said they made a mold of the computer-designed model, similar to a clay model, after which the concrete mix was filled in. Fellow colleague Paul Karakashian, a senior in civil engineering, designed the concrete mix, which he said should be light but strong.
“You learn a lot from meeting other civil engineering students with similar interests, especially about concrete and construction,” Tatum said. “It’s a great way of exchanging ideas and acquiring new information.”
Gregory Reed, a professor and the head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the event has grown over the years, while universities take turns as competition hosts. The conference cost is in part covered by the registration fees paid by students and donations from private commercial engineering companies, Reed said.
“In the operating 2007, UT is hosting this conference on an $80,000 budget,” he said.
He added that this year there are 13 competitions with various civil engineering application. The participation of the Chinese team became possible after a cooperative agreement with the country. The Chinese team’s visit to UT will be reciprocated by a local team of students and faculty who will visit China for a structural design competition on April 18.
David Ritter, a junior in civil engineering and ASCE Conference chair, gave a behind-the-scenes look into the upcoming trip overseas. “The competition consists of designing and building the model of a dome,” Ritter said. “This group will be the first school from United States to attend this conference. We are not just representing UT but also the United States.”
Judgment was based on objects’ stiffness, lightness, construction speed, display, efficiency and economy. The UT bridge team had all these in mind when constructing its 20-foot-long, 6-foot-high steel structure, which they tested with a 2,500-pound payload. Michael Hogan, a senior in civil engineering and a co-captain of the steel bridge team, said seven to eight students competed in this event.
“The scoring depends on the design, how firm the construction and the number of builders,” Hogan said.
One of the younger team members shared his experience from the event. “The conference really is fun. Besides, I have learned so much from others. For me it is an eye-opening experience meeting so many civil engineering students,” Eric Guffey, a sophomore in civil engineering, said.
The conference ended with an awards ceremony followed by a banquet at the Convention Center’s ballroom.