UB club reinvigorated, earns second place in regional competition

Three male students sit at a table with water bottles and a table tent that reads "University at Buffalo" in the center of it.

The University at Buffalo team: Vinícius Nakata, Dan Benetti and Tucker Velepec. 

By Peter Murphy

Published May 7, 2024

After several years of inactivity, the University at Buffalo Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) student club finishes second in regional competition. 

“Their efforts and enthusiasm show that they not only possess the necessary technical skills but also the potential to become future leaders in the industry. ”
Irina Benedyk, Assistant Professor
Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

The 2024 ITE Northeastern District Collegiate Traffic Bowl marked UB ITE’s first significant competition since the UB club was reestablished in 2021. The club also had the added responsibility of hosting the competition and planning events for dozens of students from four universities throughout the Northeastern United States. Despite the challenges associated with participating in its first major competition in several years and organizing the competition, the club found surprise success with a second-place finish.

UB ITE’s second-place finish was the result of a “stirring come-from-behind victory,” according to one judge. The other teams that UB competed against participate in the event annually, with high levels of success.

“This competition was a real test of our team’s capabilities,” says Jiajun Pang, graduate student in civil engineering, competition coordinator and UB team coach. “We learned a lot, particularly about maintaining composure and focus under pressure. We are proud to have demonstrated our strength in such a competitive setting.”

The competition is a quiz bowl format where teams compete by buzzing in to answer questions asked by a moderator. According to ITE, teams made up of up to three students test their “knowledge of ITE, transportation planning and engineering topics as well as some fun categories.”

UB’s team, made up of Dan Benetti, Vinícius Nakata and Tucker Velepec, all students in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, were down by a significant margin with just a few questions left to answer. The students answered several correct questions in a row to win their semi-final matchup and make it to the championship round.

According to Irina Benedyk, assistant professor in civil, structural and environmental engineering and UB ITE advisor, planning and executing the Traffic Bowl was just as impressive as the team’s win.

"Seeing our students organize and participate in such a significant competition with such professionalism fills me with great pride. Their efforts and enthusiasm show that they not only possess the necessary technical skills but also the potential to become future leaders in the industry," Benedyk says.

Following the competition, Benedyk and UB ITE students led tours of the research labs and facilities in Ketter Hall, and a visit to Niagara Falls, New York. The students also participated in research poster presentations. According to civil engineering graduate student and UB ITE president, Gongda Yu, the club began preparing for this event and their guests when the fall semester started.

"Since last September, we have been organizing this major gathering, overcoming numerous challenges from securing venues to perfecting schedules and managing invitations,” Yu says. “We also prepared a Buffalo travel guide to ensure that our guests could enjoy both the intense competition and the local allure."

UB ITE welcomed participating teams from the University of Massachusetts, New York University, University of Connecticut and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.