By Peter Murphy
Published May 5, 2020
Despite no national or regional competitions this year, UB’s American Society of Civil Engineers (UB ASCE) found success in a number of accolades from the national association. Club leadership will remember this year for a different kind of accomplishment.
“This year was heartbreaking, but strengthening,” says Wakil Pranto, UB ASCE vice president, civil engineering senior and ASCE New Face, “we’ll look back at ASCE 2020 as the year our student organization overcame hardship.”
At the start of each fall semester, the club begins preparation for its various contests at the ASCE regional competition. This year, the steel bridge and concrete canoe teams designed their prototypes and practiced their builds for months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Right before spring break, when Governor Cuomo announced all SUNY and CUNY schools would move to distance learning, our design teams started to worry about how we would work on our projects,” Pranto says, “ASCE and the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) announced virtual competitions to present our models and presentations. Just a few days later, ASCE and AISC formally announced the full cancellation of all regional competitions.”
The club had had one competition this year (the seismic design team finished 13th nationally), but it still needed to file its annual report, and despite no recognitions from the concrete canoe or steel bridge competitions, UB ASCE still earned accolades from the national chapter. For the second year in a row, UB ASCE was named the Distinguished Chapter in Region 1.
“The ASCE Committee on student members examines the annual reports submitted by schools for judging,” says Jonathan Fomenko, UB ASCE president and civil engineering junior, “some notable accomplishments we achieved over the past year include increasing our chapter membership by 17% to 150 members, completing 525 hours of community service and holding eight events providing insight into civil engineering as a profession.”
UB ASCE also earned the New York ASCE Council Award, given to the student chapter “judged to have the most outstanding record during the academic year preceding the award. The award considers scope and quality of the general performance of the selected student chapter as well as the vitality of student involvement,” according to the organization.
Both awards are based, in part, on the same annual report. UB ASCE held a number of events giving students insight into the life of a professional civil engineer. Each year, UB ASCE has student members across each discipline, but most members are upper classmen. Juniors and seniors in the club may have to enter a workforce dealing with an economic crisis. Pranto reached out to an alumnus and active ASCE member to give students some expectations.
“I was on LinkedIn and noticed a post from a fellow ASCE New Face where his student chapter invited a professional engineering from their younger members group to speak on the topic of this pandemic and probably economic crisis,” Pranto says, “I thought this idea was extremely beneficial, and I reached out to Jay Havens in April to set up a talk. Not only is he an engineer, but a business owner as well. The 2008 crisis he and his peers experienced gave him an excellent perspective to share with students.”
UB ASCE opened the Havens discussion up to undergraduate and graduate students in the Department. Approximately 30 students tuned in for the conversation. “The talk was quite motivating and reassuring. Jay gave some insight and comparisons into how things will be handled in the academic world versus the workplace both in and out of engineering,” Fomenko says.
Hosting and opening up the Havens discussion, completing over 500 community service hours and the efficient and constant communication to its members are many of examples of the club’s togetherness, according to Fomenko. “Many of us will remember this year for the sense of community that developed among us,” Fomenko says. “No matter a person’s age or skill level, everybody’s participation and attendance was encouraged and valued.”
According to both Fomenko and Pranto, the club will continue to look forward, and use the events that took place this spring as motivation for success in the future. “We did work for months, only for our most exciting events to become cancelled, but that hard work was not wasted,” Pranto says. “Throughout this process we developed teamwork, leadership, knowledge and memories to last a lifetime. We take pride in what we have accomplished and look forward to coming back stronger next year.