ASCE Cancels Student Competitions Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

ASCE has announced the cancellation of all remaining Student Conferences and student competitions for the 2019-20 school year – including the National Concrete Canoe Competition – because of the uncertainty and health concerns caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have taken this measure so that faculty and students may focus fully on completing their semesters remotely and in full consideration of their health, safety and welfare while doing so,” read a letter sent by ASCE President K.N. Gunalan and ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith, Wednesday, to Student Conference hosts and Student Chapters.

“We understand that this is a decision that impacts our Student Conference planning teams and student members in many ways, and want to especially acknowledge our graduating seniors, who along with other team members are greatly disappointed by this decision,” the letter continued. “We recognize the many hours, hard work and devotion that have gone into your projects, and we are committed to finding ways to recognize and showcase your achievements in the months ahead. We also want to thank our faculty advisors and department chairs for their continued support of students and our ASCE Student Chapters.”

The cancellations include the ASCE Sustainable Solutions Competition and Blue Sky Competition, scheduled as part of the National Concrete Canoe Competition weekend in Madison, Wisconsin; the ASCE Surveying Competition and society-wide finals planned for the ASCE Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute’s Surveying and Geomatics Conference, May 31 through June 2; and the Student Regional Innovation Contest.

ASCE announced last week that all remaining Student Conferences would be held online, with no in-person races or competitions. But developments ramped up quickly in recent days, with universities across the country moving to virtual classrooms, postponing programs and asking students to leave campuses, forcing ASCE to act in the best interest of the students.

The University of Florida concrete canoe team shows off its canoe. PHOTO: Sedona Iodice

It is heartbreaking, nonetheless, to consider the amount of work and time spent to prepare for competitions that now will not happen.

Julie Konopasek, the advisor for the Mid-Pacific Student Conference that was set to be hosted by the University of California, Berkeley Student Chapter, visited 16 different lakes in Northern California during the last two years, scouting the right location for the conference’s concrete canoe race. Her student chair started meeting with his fellow directors once a week last September, planning for the event.

“Yes, we’re disappointed, but because the coronavirus is so prevalent everywhere – it has affected our students in every way, at school, at home – this decision seems almost inevitable… it was just expected,” Konopasek said. “The last four weeks have been extremely stressful. The cancellation is a bummer, but it’s also understood. The students understand it.”

At the University of Florida, the concrete canoe team skipped last month’s spring break to stay on campus and work on the canoe they’d hoped could win a second straight national championship for the school.

“We poured our heart and soul into this canoe,” said team co-captain Sedona Iodice.

Iodice and fellow captain Zachary Sumislaski are both juniors, so each will have the opportunity to return to the team next year, likely in an advisory leadership capacity. The abrupt end to their concrete canoe competition project this spring has brought out impressive perspectives from both.

“It is disappointing,” Sumislaski said. “But we all are able to rest on the fact that we are extremely proud of everything we’ve done.”

Said Sedona: “I’ve always told myself it’s more about the journey than the destination. And we can hold on to everything we’ve accomplished thus far and the memories we’ve made along the way.”

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