UB ASCE design teams finish strong in their national competitions

Two student builders knelt down are putting pieces together while a third student runs to get more material and two judges examine their progress.

UB ASCE's steel bridge design team builds its bridge during the national competition. 

By Peter Murphy

Published June 27, 2022

The University at Buffalo’s American Society of Civil Engineers (UB ASCE) student club steel bridge and concrete canoe design teams finished near the top in the national competitions held during the last few weeks. 

Two teams successful at the national competitions

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“One of the most interesting things I experienced at nationals was how so many of the teams present were able to cheer other teams on, especially during race day.”
Meghan Pauley, concrete canoe team project manager and senior civil engineering student
Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

Each team came into nationals with significant momentum. At the ASCE Region 1 competition, the steel bridge design team finished first, and the concrete canoe team finished second. Although the time between conferences was relatively short, about one month, each team continued to enhance their designs, and practice. The bridge design team finished sixth overall and the concrete canoe design team finished 14th.

“In between the regional and national competitions, we worked hard to lower our build time,” says Dylan Leddy, steel bridge design co-project manager and civil engineering senior. “We built nearly every day and shaved our build time down from 6:12 to 4:08.”

At nationals, the steel bridge design teams are judged in eight different categories. UB ASCE’s team earned first place in the lightness category and finished second in both construction speed and economy. All three were priorities for the team heading into nationals.

“We used modeling to assign bridge member weights and approximated connection weights. Our bridge came in under the expected weight,” says Andrew Ralicki, steel bridge design co-project manager and civil engineering senior. “Second place in economy was a great accomplishment. We prioritized creating a bridge that we could construct quickly with just three builders. We practiced and got better every day, and this helped us eliminate any penalties such as dropped bolts or tools.”

UBASCE's concrete canoe design team poses in front of the canoe with the faculty advisor.

UB ASCE concrete canoe design team. Photo: Gavin Kelly/Louisiana Tech University

This was the first time that the project managers participated in an in-person national competition. They had some experience with nationals from the 2020 – 2021 academic year, however, those competitions were virtual. According to Meghan Pauley, concrete canoe team project manager and senior civil engineering student, returning to normal in-person competitions offered a better experience, and more opportunities to connect with other students and participate in different challenges. 

“Last year, scoring was based primarily on the written proposal and the presentations. This year opened more opportunities to score points in different ways. We were able to build a full-scale model and a display and earned an award for finishing fifth in the men’s slalom race,” Pauley says. “One of the most interesting things I experienced at nationals was how so many of the teams present were able to cheer other teams on, especially during race day.”

The national competition in 2022 was more involved compared to 2021, and provided several opportunities to learn, and gave the teams plenty of ideas moving forward.

“The experience at nationals was more immersive, compared to last year. With the competition being online and limited to only a presentation in 2021, it was difficult to connect and interact with other teams,” Pauley says. “This year, we were able to get a better understanding of the designs and composure of the teams present and were able to learn more. These ideas will help us improve our design for next year and the years to come.”

Two UB ASCE students are in the concrete canoe using the paddles while the canoe is on the water.

UB ASCE's concrete canoe during the race. 

Both teams plan to carry the experience and ideas from nationals with them as they prepare for the 2022 – 2023 academic year.

“We are focused on winning the regional competition, which we are hosting in 2023, and going to San Diego, California for the national steel bridge design competition,” Leddy says. “We have been a very competitive team nationally over the last decade, placing as high as 4th twice. We are determined to get a top three finish at the national competition in San Diego.”

The steel bridge design national competition was held at Virginia Tech, and the concrete canoe design competition took place at Louisiana Tech University. 

The seismic design team additionally finished inside the top 20 in its national compeition. Learn more about their success.