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ASCE students return from regional competition with more than concrete and steel

The 2018 ASCE Virginia's Conference team

In late March, almost two dozen Golden Bears travelled to Washington, D.C. The group was carrying with them what might sound like oddities for a road trip: a bridge made of steel and another constructed in balsa wood, a canoe made of concrete, a concrete Frisbee and concrete hockey pucks to go along with steel hockey sticks.

For these students – all members of the WVU Tech student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers – this luggage wasn’t strange at all. In fact, each piece was a symbol of the hard work and the training these students are undertaking to become engineers.

The 2018 concrete Frisbee team The 2018 concrete Frisbee team.

The group competed at the 2018 Virginia’s Regional Student ASCE Competition, hosted March 22-24 at Catholic University of America. Because of that hard work, they came home with a lot more than concrete and steel, earning first place in the concrete Frisbee competition, second place in the balsa wood bridge competition, second place in the steel-concrete hockey shootout and the accolade of maximum loading capacity in the steel bridge competition.

Dr. Tigra Yang is a professor at Tech and advisor for the group. He said the competition allows students to show off their skills. After all, it takes more than a decent throwing arm to make concrete fly.

“As a well-known civil engineering program, ASCE students present the best engineering education they receive at Tech throughout multiple competitions,” he said.

The 2018 Balsa Wood Bridge team The 2018 Balsa Wood Bridge team.

“Students apply their knowledge to design and to build the steel bridge, concrete and steel hockey, concrete Frisbee, concrete canoe and balsa wood bridge to beat many top schools. The most important phenomenon I found through the competition is that students present the spirit of the teamwork and the capacity to solve difficult problems,” he added.

Dakota Smith is a junior civil engineering major from Lincoln County, West Virginia. He is also the president of the ASCE Student Chapter at Tech.

Smith was the captain of the winning Steel-Crete hockey competition team and helped out with other teams during preparations for the competition. He said that students learned a lot about construction, materials and time management.

The 2018 steel bridge team The 2018 Steel Bridge team.

“The most memorable part of the competition was working on the concrete canoe as a chapter and learning along the way,” he said. “It was the first time any of our current members had taken on such an endeavor. It definitely was a learning process.” 

For Smith, it was refreshing to be able to put engineering skills to use in a way that highlighted just how impactful the field can be. He also said it was a great exchange of ideas.

“The competitions allow students to put their knowledge from the classroom to work in real-life applications. Not only are we being competitive, but we are absorbing the ideas and methods that other chapters use to complete the same tasks we are striving to complete,” he said. 

The 2018 concrete canoe team takes Dory for a spin. The concrete canoe team takes their project for a spin.

Yang said the chapter has seen growth over the last three years with more and more students engaging in community outreach with the group. The team also put together their projects during a year of transition, where they had to adjust to a change in location, facilities and equipment. Even so, Yang said that he was proud to see how each team pulled together.

“This is a difficult year for ASCE students to prepare all competition subjects, but the consequence turns out to be a very successful year. I have strong confidence that the ASCE student chapter will keep growing in the following years. The friendship and teamwork spirit will remain in the chapter and become a great memory for all our students,” he said.

Smith agreed.

“I believe this year allowed us to grow in ways that will benefit our chapter in years to come,” he said. 

The competition included teams from Bluefield State College, Catholic University of America, University of District of Columbia-Van Ness Campus, Fairmont State University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Howard University, Marshall University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University and West Virginia University.