January 23, 2018

SIU to host regional steel bridge/concrete canoe competition and conference

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois University Carbondale will play host to a major engineering competition this spring, bringing dozens of students from across the region for three days of fun and learning. 

The College of Engineering is making plans for the Midcontinent Student Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers, April 19-21. The event, one of 18 such student conferences nationwide this year, includes the annual steel bridge and concrete canoe building contests, among others. The contests challenge college teams to build canoes out of concrete and design the most efficient steel bridge they can. 

16 teams converge 

About 16 teams from the region will compete this year, said Mansor Sufran, an SIU graduate student in civil engineering who is coordinating the event. Along with the competitions, the conference will include business meetings, paper presentations, social activities and an awards banquet. 

Sufran said the event is an opportunity for SIU to provide an exemplary experience for students throughout the Midwest,  and to highlight its programs for students interested in earning a degree in engineering

“It is a great showcase for our College of Engineering and SIU,” Sufran said. “We are planning to invite many high school students to attend the conference, which is a huge recruitment opportunity for our college.” 

The conference will give the Carbondale community a chance to see what engineering students do at school and in their future careers. 

“We are very excited for this awesome event and cannot wait for it to happen,” Sufran said. 

Games test engineering skills 

The competitions are aimed at testing the abilities and creativity of up-and-coming engineers and is just one of the ways SIU engineering students prepare for their future careers. 

In the steel bridge contest, the team starts each year by researching possible designs and types of steel for their bridge, looking at factors such as deflection, stress and bending moments to create the best bridge possible. The team then researches, designs and fabricates a scaled simulation of a steel bridge before the competition. 

During the contest, the team must build the entire bridge from the ground up while considering display, construction speed, lightness, stiffness, construction economy, structural efficiency and overall performance.  

The concrete canoe competition challenges teams to build a canoe out of a heavy material such as concrete – an obvious engineering challenge. To do so, teams must experiment with different types of concrete mixes and designs. Judges rate canoes based on appearance, speed and other characteristics.   

SIU’s winning legacy 

Students from SIU participate each year in the conference and competitions. Two years ago, they made history by winning the top spot in both contests at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. It is the first time the SIU teams have both won first place in the competitions. 

Sufran said students competing at the events can gain valuable hands-on experience. Along with the practical engineering skills needed for the concrete canoe steel bridge competitions, they also can hone their communication skills during the oral presentations portions. 

“These competitions not only help students develop their technical abilities but also drive students to develop their leadership, communication, team building, and networking skills which are rarely touched on in the classroom,” he said.