Step One: ASCE Student Chapters

Students Paddling the 2012 Concrete Canoe (Photo Credit: Fielding Cathcart)

ASCE Student Chapters are the most localized group that you can be involved with and often the first step most people take in their professional careers.  They are generally based at universities, though some chapters are now forming at high schools.  As of the date of this post, there are 339 active ASCE Student Chapters around the globe.  Most of these groups are volunteer organizations meant to develop leadership skills, build professional networks, and honestly…have a lot of fun!

ASCE Student Chapters do a variety of social, professional development, and volunteer activities.  Depending on the size of the chapter, they will participate in anything from bowling tournaments to resume workshops to Habitat for Humanity. However, the main focus of the Student Chapters is to participate in annual design competitions.  The Steel Bridge Competition and Concrete Canoe Competition are two staples of ASCE and practically every student member has participated in one of these.

The Steel Bridge Competition requires students to construct a bridge made of…you guessed it…steel.  The bridge is made of pieces that are less than three feet in length.  At the competition, students must physically construct the bridge in front of a panel of judges.  The bridges are then loaded with 2,500 lb and the deflection of the structure is measured.  Each team is scored on things like construction speed, bridge weight, deflections under the 2,500 lb load, and aesthetics.  For a photo of a steel bridge, check out my About Me page.

The Concrete Canoe Competition has students design and build a canoe made of…you guessed it…concrete (man you’re good at this!). The challenge is that the concrete must be buoyant and the students must paddle the canoe in a series of races during the competition.  I know…your mind in blown.  Overall students are judged on the aesthetic finish of the canoe, how well they paddle during the races, a technical design paper, and an oral presentation.

To be considered an active ASCE Student Chapter, you must submit an Annual Report to the national society.  In addition, you have to pay annual dues of $25 at the beginning of each calendar year.  Beyond that, the sky is the limit to what the students can plan and achieve with the resources available to them.  If there isn’t a chapter at the university, you can start one if you have a minimum of 12 undergraduates in an engineering or technology program.  Look at the application requirements to get started on forming your own group.  I guarantee it will be the experience of a lifetime!

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