Every great teacher or coach is always looking for a new way to motivate their students.

Eric Steward, faculty adviser for the ASCE student chapter at the University of South Alabama, seems to have found a winning – if slightly extreme and notably permanent – idea.

“This was probably 10 years ago,” Steward said, recalling a fateful meal with his South Alabama students during the annual ASCE student conference.

“They said, ‘Hey, Dr. Steward, if we ever make nationals, would you get a tattoo?’ And I said, ‘You know what, if you make it to nationals, I will get a tattoo of a bridge or a canoe – whichever competition you make it in – and the year you did it.’”

That’s right, Eric Steward promised he would get a tattoo if his South Alabama student chapter ever qualified a team for an ASCE Society-wide competition.

And a decade later … well, it’s time to find a tattoo artist.

As ASCE prepares to host its first Civil Engineering Student Championships weekend, June 10-12, at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville, South Alabama is preparing its concrete canoe team to travel north for its first Society-wide competition appearance.

These last couple years since the pandemic, our students have really taken on an attitude of excellence,” said Steward, noting South Alabama’s steel bridge team also qualified for the first time for the Student Steel Bridge Competition National Finals.

“They have decided that they want to bring in underclassmen, teach freshmen and sophomores, and start to build it up.

“It’s equated to success in a way that I did not honestly anticipate – which I’m really, really grateful for.”

The 2023 ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championships will feature the 36th annual Concrete Canoe Competition finals, along with the Society-wide finals of the Utility Engineering and Surveying Institute Surveying Competition and the Sustainable Solutions Competition: Envisioning a New Downtown. Each Society-wide competition draws its field from the schools that perform best at the various student symposia held throughout the spring.

And while the competitions – and accompanying tattoos – are fun, Steward’s focus during his 12 years as faculty adviser at South Alabama has always been on the larger lessons they teach.

The big picture is to give students an opportunity to learn the skills that are really not taught in the classroom,” Steward said. “If you can learn how to manage, how to work with people, how to budget, and handle scheduling and conflict management among personalities, you’re going to be much more successful in your career.

“To me, that’s what ASCE student chapters are all about.”

As for the tattoo, Steward is making good on his promise.

“We’ve had some discussion about design, but we haven’t scheduled a time yet,” Steward said. “My thought is we might find a tattoo place at nationals.

“So when in Rome … go get a tattoo. Let’s just go make it happen.”

The following teams qualified for the 2023 ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championships, June 10-12, at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville:

photo of Florida concrete canoe University of Florida student chapter
The University of Florida concrete canoe team is ready to add to its recent run of championship success.

Concrete Canoe

University at Buffalo

University of California, Berkeley

California Polytechnic State University, San Louis Obispo

Clemson University

Fairmont State University

University of Florida

Université Laval

Lipscomb University

Louisiana Tech University

Milwaukee School of Engineering

University of Missouri–Kansas City

University of Nevada, Reno

Rowan University

University of South Alabama

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

University of Texas at Tyler

University of Washington

University of Wisconsin–Madison

Western Kentucky University

Youngstown State University

photo of Rio Grande Valley surveying team University of Texas Rio Grande Valley student chapter
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley surveying team.

UESI Surveying

University of Akron

California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Colorado School of Mines

Florida Institute of Technology

Georgia Southern University

Louisiana State University

New Mexico State University

University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Oregon State University

Pennsylvania State University, University Park

Purdue University Northwest

Saint Louis University

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Utah State University

Western Kentucky University

photo of Georgia Tech students Georgia Tech student chapter
The Georgia Tech sustainable solutions team.

Sustainable Solutions

Auburn University

Bannari Amman Institute of Technology

Brigham Young University

University of California, Los Angeles

University of Central Florida

George Mason University

Georgia Institute of Technology

University of Houston

University of Illinois at Chicago

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

University of Wisconsin-Platteville

Louisiana Tech University

Missouri State University

Montana State University

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Keep up with the 2023 ASCE Civil Engineering Student Championships on social media with #ASCEChampionships.