UA Little Rock ASCE students test skills in Memphis

April 17-23, 2017

By Nick Popowitch


The students and faculty of UA Little Rock’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers competed at the society’s Deep South Conference in Memphis earlier this month.


The conference, hosted by the University of Memphis, took place from March 30 to April 1. During the conference, 14 regional student chapters of the ASCE competed in six events: surveying, environmental, professional paper and presentation, concrete canoe, steel bridge, and a mystery event, which tests the quick-thinking and improvisational skills of the competing teams.  


The students presented their entries for this year’s conference in front of UA Little Rock’s Engineering and Information Technology building on March 30, before heading to Memphis that evening.


This year marked the first time UA Little Rock competed in all six of the events. The chapter also had a boost in participants, bringing 22 members to the Memphis competition. Receiving its ASCE charter in 2013, UA Little Rock is the newest chapter to attend the conference.


“This is only the third full year that the chapter has been a member of the Deep South Conference,” said Nickolas Jovanovic. “Most of the other schools have been competing in these events for more than 20 years.” Jovanovic is the faculty advisor for UA Little Rock’s ASCE student chapter.


At the closing ceremonies of the conference, UA Little Rock student Heather Hightower was awarded first place for her professional paper and oral presentation. The topic of this year’s paper was, “Is it ethical for university engineering faculty to teach technical subject matter to engineering students without obtaining professional licensure?” Hightower, the outgoing president of UA Little Rock’s ASCE chapter, supported the stance that faculty could teach without professional licensure.  


UA Little Rock did not place in the other five events, but the members are optimistic about their success in future conferences, and are already making preparations.


“Everyone on the team were freshman and sophomores, and we hadn’t really had any engineering classes before that,” said Blake Johnston. “We were a little more competitive in the races than we thought we would be.”


Johnston is the Captain of the concrete canoe team. This was the first year UA Little Rock had participated in the concrete canoe event, and Johnston is confident next year’s design will make his team a top competitor at 2018’s conference in Lafayette, La.


“This year, being my first year, I was able to learn a lot from the competition as well as from the other participants,” said environmental Captain Kassandra Castrillo. “Hopefully next year, having had more experience within my major, I will be better prepared.”


Castrillo looks forward to working on her design over the next year, experimenting with new materials to improve her results.  


Steel bridge Captain, Casey Baker, plans on using new materials as well. He intends to test composite members he saw at this year’s conference to improve his team’s design. The head of the surveying team, William Beggs, says experience is what will lead his team to success.


The incoming chapter president, Magen Schlesier, is looking forward to greater participation next year.


“Our chapter bonded greatly,” Schlesier said. “These competitions generated a buzz of excitement from participants for next year that I believe will drive us and inspire other students to become more involved in this incredible opportunity to meet and compete, in a fun way, with other local future leaders of our industry.”  



UA Little Rock Civil and Construction Engineering students Blake Johnston and Sam Kincannon prepare for the concrete canoe event at ASCE’s Deep South Conference in Memphis, Tenn. (Photo by Vianca Martin)