By Daniel Ramirez
President of UT ASCE Student Chapter
While the 2019 ASCE Southeast Student Conference only lasted three days, countless hours were spent prior to welcoming about 25 schools and more than 1,000 students and faculty to our home here in Knoxville. Students began working early during the spring 2018 semester by assembling the national competition teams. The teams worked closely together with the UT ASCE Student Chapter to provide them necessary materials as well as feedback on competition details. The student chapter typically places well when competing in the annual regional conference; however, there is a challenge with hosting and competing simultaneously.
Preparation was done before the start of the 2018-2019 academic year to hit the ground running. Knowing that the concrete canoe is a recurring competition, we assembled a team before the start of the fall 2018 semester. This allowed the team to conduct research on concrete mix design, canoe mold design, and obtain funding ahead of time. Once the competitions were formulated, the ASCE student chapter began recruitment. Further recruitment was performed by promoting each competition at our general body meetings. We considered our students’ concentrations to help them decide which competition would be the best option for them. In doing so, we not only ensured that each competing team would utilize their strengths to learn from their experience but also make sure they have fun.
During the months leading up to the conference, the competing teams worked so hard to collectively accomplish one of the chapter goals: place top three overall in the student conference. In order to do so, we held biweekly conference meetings to obtain progress reports, set goals, encourage faculty meetings, and obtain all materials necessary for the teams. Many of the competitions required much dedication, time, and effort. Some competitions required the efforts of our students to haul nearly a ton of sand or come to school early Sunday morning to pour concrete. Others kept our students busy late in the night drilling holes, writing reports, or woodworking. Furthermore, our chapter wanted each team to succeed by allowing them the opportunity to practice their presentations. Just days before the conference, the ASCE student chapter hosted the annual Conference Cookout. At the event, we enjoyed good food, dessert, and competition presentations. Competitions like the Professional Paper benefited by having constructive criticism from our professional ASCE members and CEE faculty.
Given the amount of work required to host the conference, it was difficult to distribute the limited resources such as time and manpower. This made our chapter goal to place top three a lofty feat. In addition to focusing on our own competition, we helped set up and organize the hosting events. This difficulty has prevented previous conference hosts from placing well and made the entire host school seem absent. However, I am proud to say that our presence was made known throughout the three days, especially during the awards banquet. We achieved hosting a fantastic conference and performed well in the competitions. Most importantly, we took home 4th place overall at conference!
The success of the ASCE Southeast Student Conference could not have been possible without the many hands that helped during the three-day event. Special thanks to all the sponsors, faculty, staff, and student volunteers who are as responsible for the win, as well as our UT conference teams. After building a strong foundation this year, we hope to use this success to inspire us for future conferences.