For students competing in the American Society of Civil Engineers Mid-South Student Symposium, success “amounts to very narrow moments,” said Chris Frishcosy.
He knows from personal experience.
In 2017, Frishcosy—now director of labs for the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga—was a member of the University of South Carolina student team in the symposium’s Steel Bridge Building contest.
His team had spent most of an academic year designing a 24-foot long, 3.8-foot wide and 5-foot tall bridge to span a “river” whose banks were marked by tape on the floor. When the actual building took place during the competition, they would lose if its measurements were an inch outside regulations.
“I can attest to the heartbreak,” said Frishcosy.
Frishcosy and Karen Lomen, administrative assistant in the Department of Civil and Chemical Engineering, are co-leaders and organizers of the symposium—which UTC is hosting for the first time since 2015. Set for March 30-April 1, its highlights include the Steel Bridge and the Concrete Canoe competitions.
Teams may spend most of an academic year preparing for the competitions, testing different types and mixtures of concrete and buoyancy factors, writing equations to verify the bridge’s strength and difficulty of construction, and finding local companies to provide the materials needed for either one.
Even if students don’t win, they still come away with lessons learned.
“You realize you knew more than you thought you knew. It solidifies what they’ve learned and makes it real: ‘I can actually be a civil engineer,’” Lomen said.
The symposium also “is a good way to show off our campus” to students and faculty at other schools, Frishcosy said. He said that a scavenger hunt is planned during the symposium with items hidden across UTC.
“People can go out and see the campus. We’re making sure that’s a focus of students visiting here,” he said.
The conference also fosters connections among students and networking with industry professionals.
“Our students have made connections. I’ve made connections. Karen has made connections within the city for donations, volunteer services and event spaces,” Frishcosy said.
ASCE Mid-South Student Symposium sponsors include TVA, AISC, Croy Engineering, Geosyntec, Barge Design Solutions, Barnett Jones Wilson, LLC, March Adams & Associates, Wright Brothers Construction Company, Inc, Neel-Schaffer Engineering, NOVONIX, Brooks and Associates, Terracon Consultants, Inc. and Pure Graphite.
Teams competing in the Mid-South Student Symposium:
- University of Arkansas
- University of Arkansas at Little Rock
- Arkansas State University
- Bryan College
- Case Western Reserve University
- Christian Brothers University
- Harding University
- Lipscomb University
- University of Memphis
- UT Knoxville
- UT Martin
- Tennessee State University
- Tennessee Tech University
- Vanderbilt University