SIU hosts Civil Engineering Conference for first time in nine years

By Jeremy Brown, Staff Writer

On April 19 through 21, SIU is hosting the American Society of Civil Engineers Mid–Continent Student Conference for the first time since 2009.

The conference brings together 16 different schools from Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska to compete in a variety of competitions.

“You can only see it every 10 years in Carbondale,” said Mansor Sufran, Committee Chair for this year’s conference. “We would just love to see everybody come watch this and see what engineering is, what students do in engineering.”


The headlining events are the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions, with 14 schools competing in each event.

The concrete canoe races will start at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday at Campus Lake.

Publicity Coordinator Larissa Root said the concrete canoe competition begins with a dunk tank test. The concrete canoes have to be able to float while full of water before they’re cleared to go into the lake.

“Most times you don’t know if it’s going to float until the day of,” Root said. “You can do calculations to determine the weight and the buoyancy. You don’t want to take it out and damage it before the competition.”

Joseph DeWerff, co–captain of the concrete canoe team, said from the beginning of the fall 2017 semester the team was designing their canoe.

“Every year kind of changes with the rules,” DeWerff said. “This year they’re really focused on sustainability and using recyclable products. So really it’s about testing and coming up with that mix that’s going to work really well.”

Root compared concrete mixtures of the boats to cooking.


“The concrete is really like the dough,” Root said. “It’s all the ingredients you put in it that turn into a fantastic outcome.”

DeWerff said the canoes can fall apart when they’re in the races.

“It deals with a lot of stresses when you’re out there and paddling,” DeWerff said. “Usually after a race or two some will start to crack. It’s kind of disappointing for those schools, to put in so much hard work, it’s sad to see something not work.”

There are three categories of races, DeWerff said.

Endurance races are filled with turns and go around the lake for two rowers, the sprints are straight paths forward and back to the finish line with two rowers, and the co–ed races are another long race of four rowers.

“You’ll have four (rowers) which will be two girls and two guys,” DeWerff said. “That one really pushes it to its limits. There’s definitely some years where we get to that point and some of the canoes fail.Then you have to swim to shore.”

The steel bridge competition will be at 7 a.m. on Friday at the SIU Arena. 14 schools are competing to build bridges that are about 20 feet long, four feet tall and four feet wide.

The goal is to build a bridge in the shortest time with the lowest amount of people, Sufran said. The bridges have to be assembled with three feet long steel beams the teams have to bolt together.

“Some schools do it with two people, but it takes them 30 minutes, some take six people and it takes them three minutes,” Sufran said. “It’s a very fast process. The students have designed and practiced building these bridges at home.”

The bridges are also judged by how efficiently the team works together, Sufran said. If someone drops a piece of equipment, or steps into the simulated river represented by duct tape, the team will lose points.

“It’s a simulation of how you do the real bridge out there,” Sufran said. “If any of your builders touch the tape, that’s one more builder added to the cost. They calculate how many builders, how much time does it take, how many penalties did you have, then they give you a score which is how much the bridge costed.”

Every event at the conference is open to the public. Since this event is only held about every 10 years in Carbondale, Sufran said he hopes to see a lot of non-engineering students attend.

“It takes a lot of time to engineer something, but the beauty of it is the outcome of when you see it, when it does its job,” Sufran said. “That’s why we’re here as engineers, to make something work or make something that could not be done otherwise.”

Staff writer Jeremy Brown can be reached at j[email protected].

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