Inside Rensselaer
Rensselaer Co-Hosts ASCE Student Conference
* Rensselaer Co-Hosts ASCE Student Conference
About 250 civil engineering students will converge on campus April 9 and 10 for the 2010 regional conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Upstate New York student chapters. Conference highlights will include technical paper presentations, a steel bridge competition, and concrete canoe races.

Rensselaer and Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) are co-hosts for the event, which provides an opportunity for students to showcase their engineering and design skills and to see how their peers from other institutions tackle similar projects.

“Each school approaches the contests a little bit differently,” said Thomas Zimmie, professor of civil and environmental engineering and the faculty adviser to the Rensselaer student chapter.

In addition to Rensselaer and HVCC, participating institutions include Clarkson University, Cornell University, École de Technologie Supérieure, Nassau Community College, Rochester Institute of Technology, State University of New York at Canton, State University of New York Institute of Technology, Syracuse University, University at Buffalo, and West Point.

The conference will open with a paper presentation competition on “Ethics and the Civil Engineer of 2025.” Contestants are expected to address issues such as the ethical implications of new technology, and the difference between legal requirements and ethical obligations.

Presentations will run from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 9, at the Hilton Garden Inn. Participants in the canoe competition also will present their design papers at this time.

Rules for the steel bridge contest are changed every year to encourage innovation and enhance competition. This year’s challenge is to design and build a scale model of a deck bridge to span a river and adjacent floodway in the arctic tundra. Bridges will be judged on appearance, cost and speed of construction, strength, and other standards. Because it’s a timed competition, students will construct portions of the bridge ahead of time and race to assemble them during the contest.

“It requires a lot of practice and a lot of teamwork,” Zimmie said. “The winning team usually can build its bridge in seven to eight minutes.”

The contest will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 10, at the Houston Field House, and the public is welcome. First- and second-place teams will advance to the national competition, which will be held May 28 and 29 at Purdue University.

Entries in the concrete canoe competition must be built to ASCE specifications and must pass flotation tests. Each team spends months developing a custom concrete mixture, building the canoe, and applying attractive finishing touches.

“In many cases, after the sanding and painting, you can’t even tell that the canoes are made of concrete,” Zimmie said.

Canoes will be put to the test during a series of races, with judging based in part on canoe construction, race performance, and a design paper. Races will be held at Snyders Lake in East Greenbush, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., April 10, and the public is welcome. The top two teams will advance to the national competition, which will be hosted June 17 to 19 by California Polytechnic State University.

For more information on the Upstate New York regional conference, go to and click on Regional Conference.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 4, March 5, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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