Sustainability and Innovation highlight the 2019 ASCE Carolinas Conference

The student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers at NC State hosted the 2019 ASCE Carolinas Conference called “Sustainable State of Mind.” Concurrently, the student chapter of American Institute of Steel Construction hosted the AISC Carolinas Conference which includes the steel bridge competition. Traditionally, these competitions have been a part of the Carolinas Conference, and they were again hosted concurrently to preserve the ability of students to compete in both ASCE and AISC events.

The three-day regional conference, held on and around NC State’s campus April 4th thru 6th, was attended by more than 320 students from 10 schools throughout the Carolinas and Georgia. The traditional concrete canoe competition was held at Lake Crabtree on Friday morning. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) took top honors in both the women’s and men’s Sprint, as well as earning 1st place overall in the concrete canoe contest. This year, it wasn’t just the canoe teams that got wet, as the event went on despite persistent spring rain showers.

The well-known steel bridge competition was held on campus on Saturday afternoon, and again UNCC took top honors. NC State’s five-person team, captained by David Zabel, took first place in 3 of 7 categories, including construction speed, stiffness, and economy. The home team took second place, finishing very close overall to UNCC. “Our steel bridge is student designed and fabricated. Three years in a row now we’ve scored high enough to go to Nationals, but it’s unclear whether that will happen this year due to some re-organization, and less teams competing at our event,” said Steve Welton, faculty advisor to both the ASCE and AISC student groups at NC State.

Teams from the 10 schools in attendance competed in more than ten different events, including two that were new this year to the regional conference. The structural tower competition was initiate and championed by CCEE Professor Jason Patrick. Students designed, and 3-D printed, towers that were then laterally loaded to simulate wind. The focus on new technologies created a strong counterpart to the more customary events. Patrick was able to visually display graphics in real time that simulated the effect of the lateral load acting upon the top of the towers. The new event was well received.

A second new event, called the ASCE Innovation Contest, was piloted by Dr. Marc Hoit, Vice Chancellor for Information Technology at NC State. “We are working to promote more innovation in both professional and student engineering curriculum,” said Hoit, who is an ASCE Fellow. The Innovation Contest was original developed as part of the ASCE Grand Challenge and is a springboard for forward-looking infrastructure ideas. The format of the Innovation Contest includes both a poster presentation, and a ‘shark tank’ presentation. While the contest for professionals, which has a global presence, was developed a few years ago, this was the first year it was carried out with students, both at the Carolinas Conference and also at the Southeast Regional Conference held in Florida. “The contest is very interesting to both the participants and observers,” Hoit said. “Next year, we will expand to two more regions. Two of this year’s teams will continue now to the global competition.”

The Carolinas Conference offers students a chance to interact, and compete, with their peers from many universities in a fun and instructive way. Harrison Dean, a senior in Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at NC State, served as both conference chair, as well as serving on the concrete canoe team.

Harrison Dean

“We don’t get a lot of hands on experience with concrete through classes, so this was a very educational opportunity. It was great to be part of the whole process, and start with individual materials, like expanded glass beads and cement, and then finally watch the boat traverse across Lake Crabtree, racing against other schools,” Dean said. “I never realized how much planning there is in hosting a conference, and the challenges that come with executing it. Being Conference Chair lead to the development of many skills, such as time management, scheduling, communication, leadership, and public speaking.”

Steve Welton

“We adhered to our theme of Sustainability in every possible way,” Welton explains. “We reduced costs and waste by choosing to not print conference materials, but to rely on electronic documents. We avoided the typical large cost of an awards banquet by having our last dinner together in one location, then making the awards ceremony more interactive in a campus auditorium.”

See more photographs from the ASCE events here. More from the Steel Bridge competition, part of the AISC concurrent conference can be seen here.