UB teams compete in the Upstate New York Regional ASCE Student Conference

By Peter Murphy

Published June 5, 2017

UB student teams participated in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Upstate New York Regional Student Conference last month at Syracuse University in Syracuse, N.Y. Thirteen colleges and universities from the United States and Canada competed in the regional conference.

Thirty-four UB Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering (CSEE) students participated in the conference’s three competitions: the Mead paper, steel bridge and concrete canoe competitions.

Jack Kennedy, a senior civil engineering major at UB, won second place in the Daniel W. Mead paper competition, which centers on an ethical question. The topic for this year’s paper was: “Is it ethical for unlicensed faculty members at universities to teach technical subject matter?”

 “I argued that it was (ethical), based on their experience in research and their education. I also discussed the University at Buffalo mission statement. It doesn’t necessarily state that the goal of undergraduate education is to produce professional engineers; it’s more to produce engineers who can pursue a lot of different job opportunities,” Kennedy said.

The steel bridge competition in which teams build their bridges for evaluation took place on the second morning of the conference. In 2016, UB’s team finished in second place at the regional level, and were expecting a solid finish in this follow up year. Unfortunately, the bridge failed a lateral stability test prior to vertical load testing and the team was disqualified. The team did appeal the disqualification immediately, however the lengthy process ended without judges overturning the original ruling.

“It was tough. We don’t get to go on with the testing so any chance you have for an appeal is really tough because you can’t post results for the bridge,” said Bryce Mazurowski, steel bridge design project manager.

Mazurowski and Charles Lamendola, administrative project manager, reached out to their team following the incident. Below is part of their statement:

“This year’s efforts were indeed no failure, though we did not win any prizes or awards. We did achieve many of the goals which we set out to. The steel bridge we created was an amazing structure to be proud of.  The connections, quality of work, and innovative methods to resist loads were unmatched by anything we saw in competition. Things to be considered are the experience and knowledge gained from this endeavor. Thank you all for your dedication and persistence which has made this effort meaningful and worthwhile to us. We have every confidence in next year’s team to achieve the same success and more.”

The steel bridge team started work on the bridge design back in September, and had about 15 regular students taking part in the process throughout the academic year.

“We build a 20-foot bridge and try and do a very good job. It takes a really long time. It gets really hectic trying to get those 15 people in at a time when you can work, or help them work on things,” said Mazurowski.

Although UB was disqualified from the steel bridge assembly portion of the competition, they did earn first place in the steel bridge technical presentation, which is evaluated separately. 

The concrete canoe competition took place on the final day of the competition, but preparation for this event began during the fall semester. The rules restrict teams to using certain materials in the concrete mixture for the canoe. Rules are announced in the fall and teams can start developing the canoe mixture.

Teams are scored on an oral presentation, a written and technical report, a canoe race and the canoe’s display. Each of these events is worth 25 percent of the final score, and UB’s team finished 4 or 5 in each event, according to Todd Snyder, ASCE faculty advisor.

The display category is unique because it gives teams an entire set to exhibit their themes. For example, the team placed their canoe, Rower Coaster, on tracks similar to what one would see in an amusement park to demonstrate the team’s roller coaster theme.

Despite working on the canoe for almost two full semesters, the team did not manage to bring home any trophies this year.  “The competition in our region has gotten really fierce,” said Snyder. “It was harder this year than it has been in the past and it seems to be rising too.”

Congratulations to all the students who participated in the ASCE competitions!

Video by the UB team's administrative project manager, Charles Lamendola shows the team assembling the steel bridge during the competition.