Students’ ‘Cool’ Ice Arch Supports Public Engagement in Engineers Week

February 27, 2012

Photo from the UAF Sun Star

Every year, ASCE takes advantage of the stage that is National Engineers Week to mount an aggressive push to raise the public profile of civil engineers. What’s truly impressive are the lengths that many local Sections, Branches and student chapters go to recognize their current or future profession.

A case in point is the chapter at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where civil engineering students were determined to restore a tradition of building an “ice arch” during Engineers Week, which this year ended last Friday.  “It’s kind of to show off how cool engineers are,” said civil engineering student Andy Chamberlain in the UAF Sun Star student newspaper.

As “cool” as it is, however, the tradition melted in 2011 without construction of an ice arch, which “got a lot of us in the civil department bummed out,” said student Stephen Lee.  So this year, the student chapter worked to bring it back by opening up the competition to all students, and offering a cash prize of up to $700.

The student chapter designed this year’s arch using blocks, rather than the designs of past years that poured water into a metal frame and then froze the structure. Those designs were not technically ice arches since the metal was still part of the structure. This year, the engineering students used a woodframe to hold the blocks until the entire arch was complete.

The project, while fun and interesting, also requires the students to rely on their math and engineering skills – a true test of a civil engineer to determine the gaps between each individual ice blocks.  “Our problem is that we don’t know exactly how much gap is too much gap,” student Sam Carlson told the Sun Star.

For an engineering project in frigid Alaska, the University of Alaska Fairbanks students had a good time.  The best part was, they reached out to the entire student population.  Said Carlson, “It’s a good time to get involved, you don’t have to be an engineering major to help out.”  And in the end, they won their own contest!

Have you, your Section, your Branch or your student chapter raised the profile of civil engineering by reaching out and including non-engineers in your activities?  How else have you engaged public interest in civil engineering? Let us know your success stories!

Jim Jennings
Senior Manager, External  Communications

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