PSWC in November? That’s right! This past Sunday November 15, a group of USC ASCE members packed up a U-Haul with past concrete bowling balls, life vests, paddles, and our trusty 2014 canoe, Discovery II. Then it was off to Mother’s Beach in Long Beach for Mini PSWC to meet up with UCLA, CSULB, and Cal Poly Pomona for some friendly competition and canoe paddling practice.
Our paddlers got some great practice working on speed and turns in our concrete canoe out on the water. We got to try out different team combinations and see how well everyone paddled together. It was a great opportunity to see how weekly Sunday paddling practices have been paying off! Despite the wind and choppy waters, our teams looked great out there!
Besides paddling, members from all schools got together for some ultimate frisbee games, concrete bowling, volleyball practice, and even started up an egg toss competition!
Members from the Los Angeles Younger Member’s forum (LAYMF) came out to the event to check it out, show support, and provided an impromptu competition. Teams of four were required to create the tallest structure they could out of a box of straws and a roll of scotch tape that could support an egg at the top. Despite some leaning structures, the end results were pretty impressive!
Mini PSWC was a great time to get to know members from other schools as well as to get a feel for what PSWC will be like come spring. Although it was the first Mini PSWC that has ever been organized it will definitely not be the last! After getting a taste of competition and team spirit we are beyond excited for PSWC 2016!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In the Steel Bridge competition, teams race against the clock to assemble their bridge. All bridge members must be within a restricted size, and the rules have specific guidelines for connections. This year’s teams pulled off an impressive assembly procedure including a dramatic rotation of the bridge structural in order to optimize the speed.
Even though our geowall failed this year, we are still very proud of all the work our team put into the project. Teams are given 15 min to construct the wall then 20 min to fill the box with sand. One wall of the box is removed, and a paper wall must hold the sand in place.
Here’s a video of our co-ed sprint heat from the canoe races at PSWC 2014, courtesy of captain Jake’s parents. This was the first heat we’ve won in years! Our team took advantage of DiSCovery II’s straight speed and their extensive preparation on their way to qualify for the small final. The coed race consists of two down-and-back laps for a total distance of 400 meters.
I’ll start off by putting this into perspective and context. Historically, USC ASCE typically places top-three in one or two events at PSWC. Our 18-school conference, combined with perennial powerhouses in the concrete canoe competition, make our conference one of the most competitive of the 15 in the country.
Last year, our only victory, albeit significant, was our first-place environmental win. This year, going into the awards banquet we didn’t expect much, but were proud of our collective effort.
We started out the awards banquet with a 1st place victory in the Scavenger Hunt competition. Despite having a team less than half the size of many other schools, our focus and determination led us to win one of the most fun events, finding cool spots and landmarks around SDSU’s campus and throughout San Diego.
Steel Bridge won 3rd place in construction speed, completing the construction of their bridge in roughly 18 minutes. They also won 3rd in bridge lightness. Our team ended up placing 3rd overall, earning an invitation to the AISC/ASCE National Steel Bridge Competition in Akron, OH!
Last year, our Concrete Canoe team had their first canoe to successfully survive every race in three years, but placed 14th overall. Despite deductions in the oral presentation and final product categories due to technicalities, the Concrete Canoe team placed 6th overall and won 3rd in design paper!
Our paddling team also did well, placing 7th overall. Highlights included our women’s slalom team placing sixth, our 4-person co-ed team winning their heat, and our men’s sprint team winning the small final by less than a second to place 6th, after missing the big final qualification by only a second.
Considering where we were just a year ago, and the fact that most of this year’s USC ASCE PSWC team were first-time attendees, all of these results are spectacular. But as we were celebrating our successes, we won an award that we never expected: 3rd place overall for the entire conference!
The overall conference rank is determined by summing all of the weighted points earned for each event, including canoe and bridge, the smaller design teams, and the sports tournaments. To win, a school must be well-rounded, participate in every event, and fight to win individual games, even if they don’t win entire sports tournaments. USC ASCE has not placed this high in the overall conference rank since 1994. Our 3rd place finish would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our entire team.
Here’s the event placement breakdown that led to our 3rd-place overall finish:
This year, we proved that just because we have a smaller department, fewer resources, and less manpower than other schools doesn’t mean that we can’t be successful. Let’s celebrate our victories, analyze our weaknesses, and come back next year ready to take 1st!
The Steel Bridge competition is one of the most exciting to watch, as schools race to assemble their bridge as quickly as possible, before applying loads and testing the deflections. There are countless deductions and possible disqualifications that the teams must avoid, and it isn’t uncommon for over one-third of the teams to be disqualified. Overall, our steel bridge team had a great competition this year, despite failing the lateral load test.