University to Host Civil Engineering Conference

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama – The University of Alabama will host the American Society of Civil Engineers Southeast Student Conference from Thursday, March 10, to Saturday, March 12. The event about 1,000 students, professors and support staff to campus.

A committee of UA engineering students developed, planned and will host the conference, said Dr. Derek G. Williamson, associate professor and director of undergraduate programs for civil, construction and environmental engineering.

With at least 800 students and close to 200 other attendees from 26 schools expected to be in attendance, the Southeastern conference is the largest of the 18 ASCE regional conferences held each spring. This will be the University’s first time hosting the conference since 2005.

The conference will offer competitions for concrete canoe and steel bridge teams along with several small contests throughout the three-day event. Along with two major contests, the conference includes a business meeting, professional and technical presentations, social activities, an awards banquet and a dozen smaller contests.

“ASCE has a legacy of supporting student development through conference and competitions,” Williamson said. “The membership believes strongly in promoting professional development though the camaraderie and the experiences at the regional conferences. Hosting the event itself serves as a major professional development activity for our students.”

UA is hosting the conference as a service to the profession and as an opportunity to show off new engineering and science teaching and research facilities built since 2005 along with the progress of the entire campus community, he said. The conference is also an economic boost to the Tuscaloosa community as nearly 1,000 attendees from the conference stay near campus.

The schedule of the contests includes:

  • Display of steel bridges on the Shelby Engineering and Science Quad from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, March 10.
  • The ASCE and American Institute of Steel Construction Steel Bridge Competition on campus Friday, March 11.
  • Display of concrete canoes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday on Shelby Quad.
  • Smaller contests throughout engineering and science building on campus all day Friday.
  • The ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at Lake Lurleen State Park.

For the canoe contest, students create canoes made from concrete, formed by pouring the concrete over a mold. Winners are chosen based on performances in a series of races. They also are required to write a technical paper explaining their construction process, give an oral presentation at the competition and create a visual display.

At the competition, team members will compete in five races: a men’s sprint, a men’s endurance test, women’s sprint, women’s endurance test and a co-ed sprint.

For each sprint, two members from each team must race their canoe along a 100 meter track, complete a 180 degree turn and return. Co-ed sprints require a 400 meter race with three 180 degree turns, and endurance tests require members to race 400 meters through a series of winding loops.

Student teams in the steel bridge contest build a bridge with little outside help. The bridge should be composed only of welded steel held together with loose bolts and nuts, all within a 45 minute time limit. The bridge must span 20 feet and be capable of supporting 2,500 pounds without losing its shape. The team will be judged based on its display, construction speed, lightness, stiffness, construction economy, structural efficiency and overall performance.

The smaller contests include testing fiber-reinforced concrete beams made by student teams until they crack; testing the resiliency of small bridges made of balsa wood designed and built by students with increasing amount of weight; displaying dog houses fabricated by student teams to withstand stronger weather; and a stress testing blocks students made from recyclable material until they deform.

Most of the smaller contests will be held in the buildings surrounding the Shelby Quad with the exception of Concrete Cornhole, which tests game boards made from sheets of concrete poured into a frame by student teams. That competition will be held alongside Concrete Canoe at Lake Lurleen.

Founded in 1852, the American Society of Civil Engineers is the oldest national engineering society in the United States. With more than 150,000 members of the civil engineering profession in 177 countries, ASCE is a leader in providing technical and professional conferences and continuing education, and is the world’s largest publisher of civil engineering content.


Adam Jones, UA media relations, 205/348-6444,