Lakehead engineering student Nadine Elmehriki has written a first-hand account of the experience of the Lakehead delegation competing at the 2023 ASCE Western Great Lakes Student Symposium
What happens when you let a bunch of engineering students loose to travel? An adventure filled with lots of fun and even more hard work!
Anyone who is familiar with the Civil Engineering program at Lakehead University has heard of the Steel Bridge Team. The students that undertake the massive project of designing, building, and then competing with their bridge have a well-regarded reputation for doing well at these competitions as the only Canadian team in the Western Great Lakes region. The 2023 team comprised of captain Josh Fiegehen, co-captain Cameron Nash, Will Neufeld, Matthew Boustani, Stephen Gonzales, and Kriss Patel.
This year the regional competition was held in Duluth, MN at the American Society of Civil Engineers Student Symposium hosted by the University of Minnesota Duluth April 13-15, 2023. These symposiums host many other engineering competitions such as Concrete Canoe, Surveying, Concrete Frisbee Golf, Concrete Cornhole, Geowall, Paper Presentations, and many more.
With the competition being held so close to Thunder Bay, our Civil Technologist, Cory Hubbard, was able to encourage two other student teams to compete in the Concrete Cornhole (Matt Scott, Alex Randall, Kaylin Clouthier, and Nadine Elmehriki) and Concrete Frisbee Golf (Zachary Morgan and Harshit Garg) competitions. As a second-year student, I was looking forward to the trip to watch the Steel Bridge Team compete and see if this project was something I was interested in doing in my fourth year.
With three teams competing at the ASCE symposium this was shaping up to be a fun-filled weekend. So, Thursday afternoon with Dr. Gong, one of the professors supervising the Steel Bridge Team, and Cory accompanying the student teams, we packed up a few vehicles and drove down to Duluth, MN. Our first stop in Duluth was at our hostel, where we had opted to rent a whole floor of bunkbeds for everyone. Staying in a hostel as a group is a fantastic way to experience any city. You have the chance to cook your own group meals, meet some locals and others who are traveling, and get to experience more of the place you are visiting.
After checking in we went over to the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) to register for the conference. Registration was held in the Swenson Civil Engineering Building structural lab. We all had a good time admiring the modern lab that was beautifully designed to be open and bright, yet functional. Registration was complete, so it was time to have a little more fun!
The Steel Bridge Team members decided to take advantage of the good weather on Friday and practice their build techniques at the nearby basketball court. While they were hard at work Dr. Gong, Zach, Matt, Harshit, and me left for Bakers Island Marina.
Matt and I competed in Concrete Cornhole and although we didn’t place in the competition, we received several comments and praise for the aesthetics of our board. Zach and Harshit competed in Concrete Frisbee Golf and took everyone by surprise with their strategy of having discs that were designed to not break at the expense of being heavier and thicker than the other competitors’ discs.
Saturday morning dawned very early with the Bridge Team up and at the convention centre by 5:30am. They had a long morning of presentations and judging to get through before waiting to compete later that afternoon. We were pleased to have George McKay from JML Engineering Ltd. (one of this year’s sponsors) join us in Duluth to cheer on our team.
It was quite something to watch each team compete to construct their bridge in the fastest time while avoiding building penalties. We saw many different strategies to build across the river, one team even had a coordinated building strategy that was very exciting to watch. It looked like there was some tough competition for our team. Finally, it was Lakehead’s turn, one of the last to compete. They ran into some issues during the pre-build judging where some of their bridge pieces were a hair’s breadth too large resulting in a penalty. The team did their best not to let it get to them and were ready to show what a Canadian university can do!
It was very tense watching the team give their best to race and build their bridge. Those of us watching were on the edge of our seats. The team successfully built within the time limits. Finally, the bridge went off to be judged for its weight and loading capacity, which passed with flying colours.
Our teams did well with Zachary and Harshit placing second in Concrete Frisbee Golf and the Bridge Team placed second in Aesthetics, third in Structural Efficiency and third in Stiffness.
It was a very successful and fun weekend filled with meeting new people and learning other design strategies and perspectives on approaching each competition. I had a wonderful time having the chance to get to know some of the upper year students and my professors and making connections with students from other schools.