Auburn shines at ASCE Gulf Coast Symposium; takes home two first-place finishes

Published: Mar 25, 2024 1:00 PM

By Dustin Duncan

Auburn University’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) will make two trips to national competitions after taking home top honors in the Steel Bridge and Sustainable Solutions competitions at the Gulf Coast Student Symposium in New Orleans in March. 

The Auburn ASCE Steel Bridge team will travel to Ruston, Louisiana, on Louisiana Tech’s campus May 31-June 1 for its national competition, and the Sustainable Solutions team will head to Provo, Utah, on Brigham Young University’s campus for nationals on June 20-22. 

Auburn ASCE student teams also finished second in the Surveying and Geo-Wall competitions and third in concrete canoe professional paper category. The symposium, which included 13 universities from Alabama to Louisiana, had more than 400 students and industry professionals. 

Ethan Lowrey, symposium chair and Steel Bridge captain, led the Auburn ASCE chapter in preparing for the competitions. Michael Perez, Brasfield and Gorrie associate professor in civil and environmental engineering, is the chapter’s faculty advisor. The chapter's president is Kate Wilson, a junior in civil and environmental engineering. 

 two students work on a steel bridge outside in a parking lot
Ethan Lowrey, Auburn University’s American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Steel Bridge captain, works on connections for his team’s steel bridge at the Gulf Coast Symposium in New Orleans this past March. His team Brian Roche works to tighten another connect on the bridge behind him.

The steel bridge team was tasked with designing, fabricating and assembling a 20-foot functioning bridge that could hold up to 2,500 pounds. If that doesn’t sound hard enough, students must assemble the bridge as quickly as possible, avoiding penalties for dropping bridge pieces or stepping out of bounds. Their bridge pieces and tools must fit in a 3.5 ft x 6 in. x 4 in. box. 

Lowrey’s team finished in 13 and a half minutes and swept almost every category to a first-place finish. (First in categories: speed, stiffness, cost estimate, economy, efficiency and overall). The Auburn team finished second in lightness. 

“It was extremely satisfying because I know how much hard work we put in,” Lowrey said. “All the hours, weeks, months and days of preparing and preparing. I think Auburn is our region's leading engineering college, so there’s no reason we shouldn’t be successful. But to get to the top in this competition — man, it was extremely rewarding. 

The sustainable solutions team, led by Lauren Flannelly and Wilson, was challenged to design a waterfront community next to a river to renovate an industrial site. The teams were challenged to redevelop and revitalize three blocks of the waterfront areas using the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision framework to meet the city’s sustainability goals. 

 five students pose for a photo in front of poster inside a building
The Sustainable Solutions team pose for a photo in front of their winning poster. From left to right are Sarah Yarbrough, Josh Sanborn, Kate Wilson, Lauren Flannelly and Rhett Dobbs.

“Our students pitched developing a community for young professionals, and they incorporated green infrastructure and several additional cool concepts to really sell it,” Perez said. “They designed a poster, presented to judges and compiled a technical report. They really knocked it out of the park and for the second year in a row will represent Auburn again at nationals.” 

Lowrey said ASCE bridges the gap between civil engineering students and industrial professionals, and events like the Gulf Coast Symposium give students opportunities to shine. 

“We get to have our hands on something meaningful and something we built ourselves,” he said. That shows that the education we’re getting in the classrooms is translating to practical application in the field.” 

Perez said performing well boosts confidence for students moving into nationals and prospective graduate students deciding where to further their education. 

“When Auburn goes out there and dominates, it’s a win for everyone because we have other students in this region who are looking at Auburn and realizing that’s a good spot for grad school,” he said. "Now, we can set up a steel bridge in the lobby of Harbert with a first-place banner on it, and that’s really going to speak strongly of our department and what can to do here as an ASCE student chapter and as an engineering college.”  

 several students pose for a photo in a grassy field holding up awards and trophies
Auburn University’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) pose for a photo after competing in the Gulf Coast Symposium in New Orleans this past March. The chapter brought home two first-place finishes, two second-place finishes and two third-place finishes.
Media Contact: Dustin Duncan ,, 334-844-2326
team of students stand in front of steel bridge

The Steel Bridge team for Auburn University's American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) chapter stands in front of their bridge that won first place at the Gulf Coast Symposium in March.

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