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Steel Industry Has New Initiative to Promote University Education [INACTIVE]

August 22, 2001 From AISC, Inc.

As part of its efforts to increase steel awareness, the American Institute of Steel Construction, Inc. (AISC) is looking to the future. A new initiative focuses on engineering and architectural students to help guarantee the future use of steel in buildings and bridges.

Part of the initiative is Adopt-A-School, which encourages steel fabricators to develop interaction with local universities. Through this interaction, future engineers and construction managers who have been exposed to both steel in the classroom and to the structural steel industry will, when practicing, confidently select steel as a design and construction solution. Not only will these future industry professionals choose steel, but since a high percentage of students tend to stay in the surrounding areas of the university after graduation they will be a future source of employees for the company. AISC currently provides to fabricators a spreadsheet showing all 226 accredited civil engineering schools in the United States, along with the names of universities with construction management programs for selection. A list of currently "adopted" schools and their corresponding fabricators can be viewed at http://www.aisc.org/adopt.html. "Adopting" a school also increases the fabricators publicity and helps the students gain a new perspective on the structural steel industry.

According to Terry Peshia, President, Garbe Iron Works, "The students are thrilled with what they see [in a plant tour] because it is so much different from anything that they will come across in the classroom. They ask a lot of questions and make us think about what we do. We also get an opportunity to explain to them what we would like to see as structural steel fabricators." The students also gain fabrication experience and an appreciation for the strength and efficiency of structural steel. "It makes the students better engineers if they know what is going on in the real world and the university's involvement with our local fabricator, the shop time, the hands-on experience, and the training with the fabricators equipment that is provided to our students is invaluable," stated Thomas J. Descoteaux, Ph.D., P.E., Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, Rose-Hulman-Institute of Technology.

The National Student Steel Bridge Competition also helps connect fabricators with local universities through the option to donate steel to be used by the students in the competition. The 10th year of competition was completed with a national competition on May 25-26, 2001 at Clemson University. To compete in the national competition, more than 1000 students from more than 175 universities previously competed in regional competitions. More than 400 civil engineering students from 42 colleges took part in the national competition. Students competed against each other and raced against the clock to build bridges that must be 20 feet in length and able to hold at least 2,500 pounds -- roughly the weight of a Volkswagen Beetle. Actual assembly times clocked in at as little as two to three minutes. Students gain hands-on experience under real-world conditions that can't be simulated in the lab or classroom. "This competition brings together everything that we learned in the classroom - ranging from construction and design, to getting along with people and how to manage your crew," said Clemson team caption Scott Robinett. More information and photos can be viewed at http://www.aisc.org/steelbridge.html.

Just as the student steel bridge competition help students gain real-world experience, the ACSA/AISC Student Design Competition helps architectural students learn to design with steel and create innovative designs. This first-time competition, sponsored by AISC and The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, challenged students to use steel as the primary structural material, placing special emphasis on innovation in steel design and construction, for the design of a Community Physical Fitness Center in Bethesda, MD. With a record total of 269 project received, more than 300 students from 37 schools participated in the competition, making the program extremely successful even in its initial year of operation.

Hands-on experience is an important aspect that structural engineering firms are looking towards universities to provide to engineering students to better meet their employment needs. AISC commissioned Ducker Worldwide, a market research company, to find out what structural engineering firms want from universities or entry-level engineers. This report has helped universities better understand the needs of practicing structural engineers as it relates to technical knowledge needed by new employees and how a university's curriculum can be better focused to prepare students for the demands of the steel design and construction community. The study is based upon responses from 120 practicing engineers representing firms involved in a wide range of work involving a variety of materials. The desire for additional training and "field experience" is reflected in the average of 14 months additional training after hiring before firms consider new graduates productive. Also, nearly a quarter of the respondents have indicated they plan to upgrade their hiring practices to require a master's degree, as only 12.5% do so, insisting on greater technical experience, and requiring more computer skills. The Ducker report can be viewed at http://www.aisc.org/ducker.html.

For more information contact:

Scott Melnick
VP of Communications
(312) 670-8314
[email protected]

American Institute of Steel Construction
The American Institute of Steel Construction, headquartered in Chicago, is a not-for-profit technical institute and trade association established in 1921 to serve the structural steel design community and construction industry. AISC’s mission is to make structural steel the material of choice by being the leader in structural steel-related technical and market-building activities, including: specification and code development, research, education, technical assistance, quality certification, standardization, and market development. AISC has a long tradition of service to the steel construction industry of providing timely and reliable information. 

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