URI Students Compete at ASCE Northeast Regional Conference

URI College of Engineering Dean Raymond Wright, left, joins the ASCE student chapter members for a photo with their concrete canoe, while construction of the new engineering building takes place in the background.

The University of Rhode Island student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) represented the College of Engineering at the Northeast Regional Student Conference from April 27-29 at the University of Vermont.

The URI contingent consisted of 18 undergraduate students and one graduate student. The students competed in the concrete canoe competition, the steel bridge competition and the Daniel W. Mead paper contest.

The team included Megan Bloemeke, Jose Dasilva, Magda Flores, Matthew Fuller, Nina Gardner, Tyler Greco, Timothy Griffin, Andrew Kieley, Steven Lucier, Jon Paul Nanni, Carl Nordstrom, Colin O’Hara, Minh Pham, David Pretsch, Paul Sauco, Christopher Shaw, Alec Stanley, Erika Wezenski and Matthew Wolenski. Sauco was the sole graduate student.

At the end of the fall semester, project managers were elected by the group. Flores and Gardner were chosen as co-project managers for the concrete canoe. Greco was elected project manager for the steel bridge.

concrete canoe
Dubbed “The Islander,” the URI canoe was decorated with an island theme.

Canoe Competition

The group conducted tests for their canoe in the fall semester and constructed the canoe in the spring. The canoes are normally judged on a design paper, an oral presentation, the finished product, and the results of a race. On the day of the race, it rained heavily, the water temperature was 37 degrees and there was a strong current on the river.

“The judges determined that the conditions were not safe enough to paddle the canoes,” Gardner said. “Our team is typically strong at paddling, so when the race got cancelled, we lost the opportunity to score a lot of points.”

The score for the URI canoe placed it ninth out of the 14 canoes entered. One of the deductions in the URI score had to do with the mix of materials used to build the boat.

“The rules required at least 25 percent of the aggregate used in the mix to be a naturally occurring aggregate,” Gardner stated. “Magda and I thought one of our aggregates was naturally occurring, but we were mistaken. Thankfully, the deduction of points wasn’t significant.”

steel bridge
Wearing their Hawaiian shirts, the URI team assembles its steel bridge.

Steel Bridge Competition

The team from URI built their bridge in one of the fastest times, taking only 12 minutes, and the bridge held more weight than half the other bridges. Unfortunately, the bridge was disqualified because it deflected (sagged) more than the allotted three inches when the 2,500-pound load was placed on top of it. The challenge proved too tough for most teams, as only four schools met the specifications.

“The bridge that we designed and constructed was based heavily on our design from last year,” Greco stated. “It was a simple span bridge made up primarily of C-channels and angles. By using lighter materials, drilling holes in more convenient locations to screw in bolts, and making our connection plates twice as thick, we were able to reduce the weight, decrease the build time and further minimized deflection from last year.”

In retrospect, Greco said he should have had the team spend a little more time constructing a stronger bridge by incorporating a simple truss, which would have reduced deflection.

Paper Contest

The topic of the paper, which was written and submitted by Bloemeke in advance of the conference, was “How does the personal and professional use of social media relate to the ASCE Code of Ethics?”

Photos