Tuesday, March 22, 2016

UNO Student Engineers Were Outstanding While Out Standing in the Swamp at McNeese Competition

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Nine engineering students from the University of New Orleans attended the 2016 Deep South Regional Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and placed in six different competitions, with second and third place overall finishes in two major events. The conference, which was hosted by McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La. from March 10-12, introduced students to some of the real world challenges civil engineers face in unique environments like Louisiana bayous.

McNeese reported that more than 350 students and faculty representing 14 universities from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee were on campus for the student conference. Over three days, conference attendees competed in various events designed to test participants’ engineering skills and teamwork ability. The winners go on to compete at national ASCE conference competition.

The UNO team took home the overall second place prize in the concrete bowling event, in which student teams must design and construct a concrete bowling ball that is practical, durable and aesthetically pleasing. The Daniel W. Mead Prize for Students is awarded for the best paper on professional ethics in the field, and its third place winner was Stephen Borengasser, president of the UNO student chapter of ASCE.

Concrete canoe competitions involve both construction of the water craft and performance in a race against other entrants. In the concrete canoe event, the UNO team placed first in the women’s endurance category, third in the men’s 200-foot sprint category, third in the coed 400-foot sprint category and third in the design paper presentation category.

The conference also included a steel bridge event, where students take an idea from conception and design through fabrication, building and testing to produce a structure that meets certain specifications while optimizing performance and economy. A surveying competition required students to measure distances and elevations using traditional surveying methods instead of modern technology.

In addition to Borengasser, the following students attended the conference: Alexa Dale, Courtney Foret, Enrique McDonald, Michael Merwin, Blake Reed, Paris Stanton, Matthew Thomas and Shane Troendle. UNO faculty members attending the conference included associate professor Gianna Cothren, who also serves as faculty advisor to UNO’s ASCE student chapter, and assistant professor Malay Ghose Hajra. UNO alumnus David Fazende was also on hand to support the team. 

“The annual ASCE conference is a great opportunity for our future civil engineers,” Cothren said. “The students organize, fundraise, design, construct and compete in all the competitions completely on their own. It is as close as they can get to a real world experience before graduation.”

“Even though we initially faced some setbacks in preparing for the conference, I was proud of how everyone used their problem-solving skills and came together as a team,” Borengasser said.

“Our hard work definitely paid off, and I hope it builds excitement in the program for next year," he added.

Upon returning to campus, students received praise from UNO’s civil engineering department chair.

“You are an incredible group of students,” said Bhaskar Kura in an email to conference attendees. He encouraged them to not only keep up their excellent work but also mentor future participants.

The American Society of Civil Engineers is the nation’s oldest engineering society. Founded in 1852, ASCE now represents more than 150,000 members of the civil engineering profession in 177 countries. A leading provider of technical and professional conferences and continuing education, ASCE also serves as the world’s largest publisher of civil engineering content and an authoritative source for public safety codes and standards. The organization advances civil engineering technical specialties through nine dynamic institutes and many professional- and public-focused programs. One of those programs, the ASCE student conferences, are a long-running tradition in many regions across the country. The gatherings give students opportunities to show off their talents and compete against teams from other schools. Eighteen ASCE regional student conferences are held every spring around the country.