Civil engineering student group marks 100 years at UC

American Society of Civil Engineers UC chapter offers students a glimpse into engineering careers

The University of Cincinnati’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is celebrating 100 years as a campus group.

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The UC ASCE chapter includes about 130 student members who have an interest in civil engineering. The organization’s central goal is to foster networking opportunities and to give students a look into the various potential career paths they could follow in civil engineering. 

“The purpose is to be a bridge between the academic and professional worlds,” said Mihali Sevastakis, a fourth-year civil engineering student and UC chapter president. 

Weekly Friday afternoon ASCE meetings give students the opportunity to hear from a broad range of local professional engineers. Speakers describe their company and their role, providing students with detailed examples of what they could do with their engineering degrees. 

The student-led executive team coordinates site visits for members to get an up-close peek at what goes on in the field. Recently, the group toured the stadium construction site for FC Cincinnati, the city’s Major League Soccer team; viewed progress on a new exhibit being built at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden; and visited a waste water treatment facility. 

UC ASCE students hold their chapter sign while wearing hard hats after volunteering in the Cincinnati community with Habitat for Humanity

UC ASCE students regularly volunteer in the Cincinnati community with Habitat for Humanity and People Working Cooperatively. Photo/provided.

There is also a large volunteer and outreach component to ASCE. Members can volunteer with construction, repair and cleanup projects in the Cincinnati area with People Working Cooperatively and Habitat for Humanity. They also visit local schools to encourage younger students to pursue STEM careers. As part of a national effort, the UC chapter held showings of "Dream Big," a movie that serves as an introduction to civil engineering, and led STEM activities for more than 400 middle school students from Cincinnati and Milford schools. 

The chapter won accolades in recent years, including earning the Distinguished Chapter Award in 2019, one of only 10 student chapters to be given the honor. A member of the ASCE executive team, Nichole Criner, won the National Student Leadership Award last year. 

UC ASCE members can participate in competition teams such as balsa wood bridge building and concrete canoe to compete regionally at the Ohio Valley Student Conference. The 2018-2019 concrete canoe team moved on to compete at the national competition held in Florida the summer of 2019, which is the first time a UC team has been to nationals in a decade.

The 2019 UC concrete canoe team pose with their canoe at the national competition.

The 2019 concrete canoe team made it to the national competition last summer. Photo/provided.

For the concrete canoe competition, students spend an entire school year designing and constructing a canoe from lightweight concrete. They present a design paper and give an oral presentation and race their canoe against other teams at the competition. This year’s team is gearing up for the regional competition in April. 

UC civil engineering students construct their concrete canoe for competition.

Concrete canoe construction. Photo/provided.

“Concrete canoe really has all the aspects of a construction project, just on a much smaller scale. I think it really prepares us as students for what we are going to face once we start our careers,” said Tanner Alley, concrete canoe project manager and fourth-year civil engineering student. “It really represents a construction project in its entirety from the design phase to planning; it has project management aspects to it; there is a whole construction phase; we have to take into account being efficient and sustainable; we have to budget.” 

Participation in ASCE gives students a chance to develop skills in design and hands-on construction, as well as soft skills such as teamwork and leadership ability, said Abhijeet Deshpande, UC civil engineering professor and the student chapter’s advisor. For this reason, he said he tries to take a hands-off approach to advising and let the students lead the way. 

The UC student chapter has a close relationship with their neighboring professional chapter of ASCE in Cincinnati, which helps the student leadership team find potential speakers and make other industry connections. 2020 also marks the centennial of Cincinnati’s professional chapter of ASCE, which includes many UC alumni. The two groups plan to coordinate a combined celebration to mark 100 years, possibly in the fall. 

Featured image at top: Students paddle their concrete canoe created by the UC ASCE team during a competition. Photo/provided. 

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