All posts by Nick Halsey

PSWC 2015 Results

The results are in and one thing is clear — USC ASCE is now a dominant force in the ASCE Pacific Southwest Conference. A year after a shocking 3rd place overall rank at PSWC 2014, our biggest, strongest, most promising team in recent history has repeated with a 3rd place overall finish at PSWC 2015, hosted by the University of Arizona.

Ultimate Frisbee team with their 1st place award.
Ultimate Frisbee team with their 1st place award.

An overall placing at PSWC is no small feat. Over twenty events contribute to the overall composite score, and 18 universities vie for victory in each and every one. USC ASCE has records of placing third overall at PSWC only twice (2014, 1994) in our 91-year history, and we believe that we’ve never placed higher with this many schools in our conference. This is truly a special moment for our organization and our members.

Quiz/Family Feud Team with their 3rd place award.
Quiz/Family Feud Team with their 3rd place award.

Seven of our competition teams placed top-three and all events contributed to our overall finish. I’ll now break down the results for each of our eight design teams, followed by a summary of our placings in all of the smaller events.

Concrete Canoe

2015 Concrete Canoe Team Photo with our canoe, Jurassic
2015 Concrete Canoe Team Photo with our canoe, Jurassic

Last year’s concrete canoe team established itself as a solid contender with the 6th place finish of DiSCovery II, following a 14th place finish in 2013. This year, the team continued to improve with an even stronger canoe, Jurassic.

3rd Place in Concrete Canoe Design Paper!
3rd Place in Concrete Canoe Design Paper!

A new effort to better understand the structural analysis of concrete canoes contributed strongly to a repeat 3rd place finish in the design paper category, as well as a much-improved 6th place finish in oral presentation. While the smallest of omissions in the engineer’s notebook lead to a significant deduction in the final product category and our slightly modified hull design and logistical constraints with practicing lead to  lower placings in three races than last year, our women’s sprint team finished 4th and our women’s endurance team placed 6th. Overall, our team placed 5th with Jurassic, a one-place improvement over last year.

Steel Bridge

2015 Steel Bridge Team with their assembled bridge.
2015 Steel Bridge Team with their assembled bridge.

This year’s bridge team created an incredibly innovative design featuring a complex connection system that allowed the team to optimize cost, weight, and constructability. The design proved to be time consuming to fabricate, but our dedicated team pulled several consecutive all-nighters, including two in Tucson, to complete their bridge in time for the competition.

Despite only having time for two practice runs, the team put on an impressive show in the bridge assembly stage, highlighted by a novel technique of building most of the bridge over the “land” before swinging it around on a pivot to complete construction. The 14:46 assembly time is one of our best in recent memory. Unfortunately, during assembly, a single washer fell off from one of the members—the washers were used to bolt together the members, as per the competition rules. Because of this, the bridge did not meet the requirements and forced a disqualification. But it should be noted that many, many teams are disqualified from the steel bridge competition for various reasons (13 of the 17 universities at PSWC 2015, in fact), and that result does not diminish the quality of the product that our team produced. Our 2015 bridge is one of the best we’ve created and we’re excited to see what next year’s team will do to build on it.

Environmental

2015 USC Environmental Team with their water filtration system.
2015 USC Environmental Team with their water filtration system.

Our environmental team put on a strong showing this year with their water treatment system. They built an impressive structure to house the varying stages of systems and presented their results very professionally. The filtration system was reportedly successful in its initial results, pending further analysis by the judges. In the end, the team placed 8th, giving us a significant contribution to the overall point total and also leaving plenty of room to continue improving in future years.

Geowall

The 2015 Geowall team poses with their loaded box.
The 2015 Geowall team poses with their loaded box.

The Geotechnical Engineering competition this year proved to be a challenge for many participants. Teams built a three-sided retaining wall out of paper. Unfortunately our team’s wall was unable to  hold the weight of the sand when the box was opened due to a variety of factors. But the team put in a good effort, seen in aspects ranging from their strong presentation poster to their meticulously-designed Trojan-themed box. Looking to next year, the team is excited to see what they can do with the knowledge gained from this year’s efforts.

Surveying

2015 USC Surveying Team.
2015 USC Surveying Team.

For the first time in many years, our surveying team sought not only to learn enough to get by, but to actively learn various aspects of surveying to further both their individual abilities and the team’s success. Weekly practices throughout the semester and the help of a graduate advisor lead to a strong 6th place finish that contributed significantly to our overall 3rd place finish.

Dog House

The 2015 USC Dog House Team poses with their food-truck-themed dog house: "A Trip Around LA".
The 2015 USC Dog House Team poses with their food-truck-themed dog house: “A Trip Around LA”.

A new competition this year, the dog house team sought to build a creative and functional home for a deserving dog that featured a geographically relevant theme. Our result was a spacious wooden structure themed “A Trip Around LA”, featuring food trucks and the food truck culture that is evocative of Los Angeles. Making another significant contribution to the overall point total, our team finished in 6th place. After the competition, our dog house was donated to a local animal shelter, which will be auctioning it off as a fundraiser. We’re excited to have this opportunity to support the local Tucson community and create a new home for a special dog.

Concrete Bowling

The Concrete Bowling Team poses with their Spongebob-themed ball.
The Concrete Bowling Team poses with their Spongebob-themed ball.

While this year’s concrete bowling received a “participation” score, their perfectly-round “sponge-ball” was extremely well-executed and well-received. The team is already planning extensive efforts to better prepare themselves for next year now that they have a solid year to build off of.

Complete Scores

Our talent show team placed 3rd with a stunning rendition of "Something Big" featuring an original dance.
Our talent show team placed 3rd with a stunning rendition of “Something Big” featuring an original dance.

Our team competed in every event at PSWC 2015, and every point mattered in our 3rd place finish, winning by only 15 points. Four of this year’s teams placed 1st and three teams placed 3rd, the highest number of individual event awards in our recorded history.

Scavenger hunt captains with their 1st place award.
Scavenger hunt captains with their 1st place award.
Mystery Event Team with their 1st place award.
Mystery Event Team with their 1st place award.
Talent Show Team with their 3rd place award
Talent Show Team with their 3rd place award.
  • Concrete Canoe: 5th
    • Design Paper: 3rd (repeat)
  • Steel Bridge: DQ
  • Technical Paper: 1st
  • Geotech: participated
  • Environmental: 8th
  • Surveying: 6th
  • Dog House: 6th
  • Transportation: participated
  • Quiz/Family Feud: 3rd
  • Scavenger Hunt: 1st (repeat)
  • Concrete Bowling: participated
  • Mystery Event: 1st
  • Ultimate Frisbee: 1st
  • Basketball: participated
  • Soccer: participated
  • Talent Show: 3rd
  • Impromptu: participated
  • Kan Jam: participated
  • Tug of War: participated

Overall

Sylvia Tran, 2015 USC ASCE Technical Paper Author, with her 1st place award.
Sylvia Tran, 2015 USC ASCE Technical Paper Author, with her 1st place award.

I began this post with an explanation of our 3rd place overall finish. But I want to once again emphasize the importance of the contributions each and every one of our teams made. Every single point counts, and our team truly gave this conference their all, fighting through challenges ranging from limited time and budgets to broken noses in the basketball tournament. The shear effort put forth by our team represents a unbelievably solid commitment to our school, our chapter, and each other.

Celebration after placing 3rd overall at PSWC 2015.
Celebration after placing 3rd overall at PSWC 2015.
PSWC Co-chairs Lucy and Nick with USC ASCE President Winston and our *3rd place overall award.
PSWC Co-chairs Lucy and Nick with USC ASCE President Winston and our *3rd place overall award.

With such an amazingly successful year now complete, it’s hard to imagine what the future may hold. One of the most exciting parts of this year’s team is the number of underclassmen, including seven freshmen, we had. Only twelve seniors on this year’s team are graduating, and while they all played significant roles, we’re better prepared than ever to have younger members fill their shoes. With such a strong base of returning members, all eager to recruit others to join us as well, we can only imagine where we’ll be a year from now.

USC ASCE PSWC 2015 Team with all eight of our awards.
USC ASCE PSWC 2015 Team with all eight of our awards.

– Nick Halsey

USC ASCE 2014-2015 Sponsorship/Conference Co-chair

 

P.S. this is exactly my 100th post on this blog. The website and our club have come an amazingly long way since I first built this site in my freshman year (2013), and I’m excited to see where we go from here!

Saturday Night PSWC Prep

We’re all working hard to get everything ready for PSWC 2015. Our Concrete Canoe, Steel Bridge, Geotechnical, Dog House, and Concrete Bowling teams are all putting in long hours today in the KAP Basement, and everyone’s super excited for conference!

Sponsorship Announcement: Kennedy/Jenks Consultants

We are pleased to announce that Kennedy/Jenks Consultants has become a “Tommy” sponsor of USC ASCE for 2014-15 with their donation of $500. Kennedy/Jenks Consultants provides engineering and scientific solutions for water, environmental, energy, and innovative projects to government agencies and private utilities, industry and business, federal programs, and transportation clients. Their sponsorship will provide the remaining funding necessary to support our design teams as we quickly approach our annual competition, PSWC.

Kennedy/Jenks Consulting Engineers

Interested in becoming a sponsor? Learn more at our sponsorship page.

Concrete Canoe Paddling Practice with DiSCovery II

We took last year’s (2014) concrete canoe, DiSCovery II, out for a spin this weekend as we finalize our training for the canoe races at PSWC 2015. While this year’s canoe (Jurassic) is slightly different, we chose to keep the design very similar so that we could explore improvements to our paddling technique rather than making drastic changes.

The day started out a bit rough when we realized that we ordered the wrong sized UHaul to take the canoe to the beach. Note for the future: concrete canoes typically require at least a 22′ UHaul; don’t try fitting a 19′ canoe into a 20′ UHaul (bed length ~17′).

Once we made it, we set up buoys and practiced in DiSCovery II alongside the regular (plastic) practice canoes that we borrow from Newport Aquatic Center. All of our race teams practiced together, trying new techniques and making adjustments as needed to get comfortable with paddling in a concrete canoe.

DiSCovery II, back on the water.
DiSCovery II, back on the water.
The men's endurance team heads out to practice their turns.
The men’s endurance team heads out to practice their turns.
Canoe Captain Erin give the women's sprint team feedback on their turning technique.
Canoe Captain Erin give the women’s sprint team feedback on their turning technique.
Hanging out on the beach while we rest between practices.
Hanging out on the beach while we rest between practices.
Women's sprint team practicing.
Women’s sprint team practicing.
Getting ready to head back.
Getting ready to head back.

We were surprised to realize that our concrete canoe is capable of being paddled much more quickly than the real canes we usually practice with. Overall we had a great practice and are looking forward to PSWC in less than two weeks!

2015 Workshop for Student Chapter Leaders

Six USC ASCE members represented our chapter this past weekend at the ASCE Workshop for Student Chapter Leaders (WSCL) in Seattle, WA. WSCL brings together students from Regions 8 and 9 of ASCE, representing 36 universities in the western United States. WSCL is part of the multi-regional leadership conference that brings together student chapters, younger member groups, and branch and section leadership.

WSCL 2015 (Seattle)On Friday we attended several student sessions designed to share knowledge, ideas, and best practices between chapters. A networking lunch offered the opportunity to meet more students as well as professional engineers, before a keynote presentation by ASCE President-elect Mark Woodson. In the afternoon we did break-out sessions to focus on particular topics such as fundraising, membership, and issues specific to smaller chapters.

We also participated in regional break-out sessions, where we met with leaders at all levels from our geographical region (Metropolitan Los Angeles Branch in the LA Section in Region 9). Our primary focus was to strengthen inter-chapter interactions and our coordination with the Los Angeles Younger Member Forum. To that end, we’re hosting a beach day next weekend with UCLA and CSULB.

In the evening we joined students from a couple of other student chapters (UCLA and CSULB) for dinner in Bellevue, before heading to downtown Seattle for the scavenger hunt organized by the Seattle Younger Member Forum. Newly-formed friendships continued strengthening deep into the night.

11001838_792785960807099_2477080442182864052_nSaturday started with a networking breakfast accompanied by an extremely insightful presentation about generational issues that are likely to be encountered in current workplace environments. Students were also given an opportunity to do a Q & A session with the top ASCE leadership – the president, president-elect, and executive director. Another networking lunch, a leadership presentation, and several other sessions rounded out the day.

Once the conference was officially over, we still had about 24 hours to explore Seattle. Highlights include Pike Place Market, the Original Starbucks, socializing with students from other ASCE chapters, reconnecting with old friends at the University of Washington and exploring their campus, and seeing the Space Needle.

Overall, WSCL 2015 was an amazing experience. We met countless peers and professionals, explored new ideas for expanding our chapter’s goals and capabilities, and explored an awesome, quickly-growing city. I strongly recommend attending a future WSCL – keep an eye out for details about next year’s conference in Anchorage, Alaska (February 22-23, 2016) and the 2017 conference in Los Angeles.