Pacific Southwest Conference holds competitions for civil engineering students
Concrete canoe races, steel bridge construction, and more bring out the competition between 18 schools nationally.
April 3, 2016
Not only does concrete float, it can be raced. Teams of civil engineering students from over 18 schools designed their own concrete vessels to sail through the water and weave through buoys Saturday in Long Beach.
The concrete canoe race is just one event during the American Society of Civil Engineers’ student-run Pacific Southwest Conference.
Cal State Long Beach’s ASCE chapter hosted the conference this year for over 1,300 attendees on CSULB’s campus with the canoe race at the Marine Stadium on Paoli Way in Belmont Shore.
Universities ranged from Southern California institutions such as San Diego State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and University of California, Los Angeles, while others hailed from out of state such as Arizona State University and the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Each school was tasked to design and build a canoe out of a strong yet lightweight mix of concrete. ASCE Vice President Hernan Lozada said it involves months of planning utilizing software to test the hydraulics and function of the canoe.
“[ASCE members] have done so many calculations on that bastard,” Lozada said. “We have these things called point loads so at certain areas we don’t want to put too much weight because it’ll crack and break.”
The first race of the day was endurance rounds for men, women, and coed teams. Two members from each school rowed their canoes while maneuvering around strategically placed buoys.
ASCE treasurer Abigail See, who participated in the women’s endurance race, said effective communication becomes the key element to getting the fastest time.
“That’s what makes or breaks a good team,” See said. “You have to coordinate your strokes because if you’re going at different times you actually don’t move as fast or smoothly.”
The ASCE conference started Thursday and culminated in a banquet Saturday. Over the course of three days student teams from each school participated in various competitions.
Some games were engineering related, such as the canoe race or a steel bridge construction contest, others were not technical, such as volleyball or tug of war. What united them, however, was the boisterous show of support students gave their school’s team.
“There’s a lot of screaming so you’ll probably be deaf after [the conference], if you don’t lose your voice already,” Lozada said. “You’ll literally see everybody looking like howler monkeys.”
Ashley Betance-Kearn, a graduate civil and environmental engineering major at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, said the enthusiasm came from students’ dedication to civil engineering and a bit of competitive energy.
“We’re all really passionate about what we do and it’s nice to be able to compete against different schools,” Betance-kearn said. “Everybody wants to be the best.”
ASCE co-conference chairs Mais Sagradyan and Lauren Kilroy headed organizing with co-presidents Cody Dodge and Tatiana Braun. Kilroy said ASCE’s planning involved booking venues, some a year in advance; coordinating catering for the three days and contacting local civil engineering firms for sponsorship.
However, Kilroy said the responses she’s received from other attendees makes the two-year chaos worth it for her.
“I’ve been running around like crazy, yet no one else knows,” Kilroy said. “They just see that everything is going well, and I’m like ‘that’s it, that’s how I can relax: they like it, we’re doing good.’”
According to Amanda Corbett, a fifth year civil engineering major from San Diego State, the Pacific Southwest Conference is a competition but, beyond that, a valuable networking opportunity for future engineers.
“These people we know in college, we’re gonna be friends with them later on and network with them,” Corbett said. “We have people that come to our meetings and they always show us pictures of when they went to conference back in the ‘80s.”
Hosting for the conference rotates every year. Kilroy said that despite fierce competition between schools, ASCE is working closely with next year’s conference host: University of California, Irvine.
“Usually they’re our rivals; UCI, they’re down the street, but we just want everyone to have a good time,” Kilroy said. “It’s what we’ve been working towards.”