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Student leaders take center stage at ASCE Championships

canoes on a lake

Two students successfully hosted the 2024 American Society of Civil Engineers Championships with a unique BYU touch.

This year’s ASCE championships, hosted by BYU students, were buzzing with excitement as students from around the continent showed off their talents. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Championships consist of three competitions: Sustainable Solutions, Concrete Canoe, and USEI Surveying.

The success of the championships can be attributed largely to two BYU students: Taylor Miskin and Adam Hill, co-chairs of the BYU chapter of the ASCE. The society prefers that events be student-driven, so Miskin and Hall were hand-picked by BYU faculty to lead the effort in 2022 when BYU won the bid to host the 2024 championship.

“They were totally committed from the start, so that was really a pleasure,” said Leslie Payne, ASCE director of student outreach.

Dr. Clifton Farnsworth, the faculty advisor, emphasized the students’ leadership skills and remarkable efforts.

“They were hand-selected because they were go-getters and they’re faithful in accomplishing their assignments,” Farnsworth said.

While the students impressed with their leadership and communication, what really stood out to visitors was the energy BYU brought to the competition.

“From the get-to it was very clear that Taylor and Adam completely got what the most important pieces of having a competition like this are…not just winning is the important part, but the journey,” Payne said.

students carrying a concrete canoe
Students from multiple Concrete Canoe teams work together to transport the "Lightning Moo-Queen."
Photo by Kayden Hadley

Despite being competitors, teams cheered for each other and were frequently spotted helping each other transport canoes. One noteworthy example was the United States Military Academy at West Point. Due to financial and scheduling constraints, the team could only bring one female, two males, and an advisor; however, races are run with two people in the canoe. For the Women’s Slalom and Women’s Sprint races, team member Abby Gash chose to complete the races by herself with a team member not paddling to balance the canoe. If Gash hadn’t competed, the team would not have been able to compete in the other categories.

West Point student paddling back to shore
Abby Gash from West Point paddles back to shore after the Women's Slalom.
Photo by Kayden Hadley

Gash tirelessly paddled the canoe by herself for both races and supported her team for the Co-Ed Slalom. As she competed, teams across the beach were heard chanting “U-S-A” and cheering her on. During the Co-Ed Slalom, the canoe capsized, and the team swam the remaining 300 meters to the finish line. For their efforts, the West Point team won the Mike Carnival III Spirit of the Competition Award to a standing ovation and more chants of “U-S-A.”

“It was this kinder, gentler sort of group to work with that wore their values on their sleeves and they were completely aligned with the organization,” Payne said.

“The biggest thing they’ll take out of this event is not an award or a trophy, but rather the friendships they make…yes, come here to compete, yes, come here to beat the other teams, but that’s not going to matter in ten years from now,” said Hill.

WKU students cheering
Students from Western Kentucky University cheer on competing teams in addition to their own canoe.
Photo by Kayden Hadley

The ASCE championships included several social events to cement this sentiment. Miskin spent countless hours calling alumni and companies to sponsor the event, connecting students with job opportunities around the country.

"The people I've been meeting, the opportunity to interact with the students, the chances to learn so many skills in real life on how to work with people…has been so beneficial,” said Miskin.

“The companies, the donations they’ve done [are] phenomenal. Their help, their support, they’re hiring our students. It’s awesome,” said Kris Bess, graduate program manager for BYU Civil & Construction Engineering.

“It introduces students early on to a community of professional engineers, and it builds such positive feeling within a person,” Payne explained.

Overall, the competition not only provided networking opportunities but enabled students with competitive skill sets for the professional world.

“It’s one of the most fun ways to apply engineering. You know, you do something hands on and then you take it out and get to compete, have a lot of fun,” said Cole Hollingsworth, a student at Western Kentucky University.

“[It] provides an opportunity to take the skills you learn in the classroom out into the real world, to really learn by doing,” said Andrew O’Connell, ASCE foundation administrator.

Miskin and Hall’s efforts were lauded by officials, saying this was one of the best run championships they’ve ever been to.

The winners of the championships were as follows: Georgia Institute of Technology (Sustainable Solutions), University of Florida (Concrete Canoe), and Purdue University Northwest (UESI Surveying).