Curl up with this year's Housing Guide for dorm friendly recipes, curfew throwbacks and more, click here

Concrete canoes, problem-solving tie up engineers

Engineers from the Southeast and Puerto Rico came to USF this past weekend to show off their skills and engage in a weekend of friendly competition at the American Society of Civil Engineers 2004 Southeast Regional Conference.

The conference took place Thursday through Saturday, and about 700 civil engineering students from 25 universities in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Puerto Rico attended.

The contests the students competed in included competitions featuring Balsawood and steel bridges, a concrete canoe, a visual display, a concrete strength competition and a civil survivor. In addition to the contests, the conference also included a job fair with local businesses recruiting students.

“It helps to bring all the different schools together to compete and prove to themselves how much they really know,” said USF student Cheryl Spinks, the conference committee president.

The biggest events during the day were the steel bridge building competition and the concrete strength competition. The steel bridge building contest had students constructing frames of steel bridges with three columns and two supports. The bridges were judged on two criteria — construction time and deflection (how much the bridge bends under weight). Once the bridges were completed, they were loaded up with around 500 lbs. to see how much they bent.

In the concrete strength competition, students had to create cylinders from different mixtures of concrete. The cylinders were placed on compression testing machines, where they were pressed with weight until they began to crumble.

“It’s fun for the students. It gives them a chance to be creative and it shows them the fun part of engineering,” said Mahood Halaweh, one of the judges for the concrete strength competition.

Another of the more popular events was the civil survivor, which was this year’s mystery competition. It pitted groups of three students trying to find puzzles on campus and solving them. Each group was given a calculator and all three people in the group were tied together. Two of the students in a group would have their arms tied together, while the last one would have one of his legs tied to the middle person. In this fashion, the group ran around campus solving engineering problems at seven different stations.

On Saturday, the concrete canoe competition was held. The event had students designing and building canoes out of a mixture of concrete, which needed to float and be the fastest in the water. The competition at the conference also serves as an elimination event for the concrete canoe national finals.

The conference is an annual event allowing students from all over the southeast region of the United States to get together and get to know one another. Many of the students attending the conference said they looked forward to coming to the event all year. Those who had never attended said they enjoyed the experience and looked forward to attending next year’s.

“It is a way to get together and really connect with other students,” said Phillip Ramsey, a senior in civil engineering at UF.

“It’s a learning experience. I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Heather Turner, a sophomore in civil engineering at the University of Alabama.

“It’s great. It’s getting to put the classroom stuff to a practical application,” said Allen Breed, a senior in civil engineering at Vanderbilt University.