New Student Chapter ‘Cements’ Relationship with American Concrete Institute

Thursday, 07 March 2024
Students from Georgia Tech ACI chapter pose in protective gear at Standard Concrete Products

Members of the student chapter of ACI at Standard Concrete Products in Atlanta with chief engineer Fletcher Smith and plant manager Brett Martin. (Photo by Mike Hunter)

One of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s newest student organizations is creating community among students and gaining recognition from professionals in the concrete industry.

The student chapter of the American Concrete Institute (ACI)  at Georgia Tech is a new student organization dedicated to providing future engineers opportunities for professional development related to the design and construction of concrete structures, as well as interaction with industry professionals involved in the organization’s Georgia Chapter.

In the short time since its launch in September 2023, the chapter has quickly flourished. Recently, it was recognized by the national organization as one of 100 outstanding student chapters out of over 300 around the world.

Logo of Georgia Tech student chapter of American Concrete Institute

“This is an incredible feat for our young chapter, having only been officially chartered as an organization last semester,” said chapter president Connor Szeto, a Ph.D. student in the Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials group.

“What is a little surprising to me, is that we made it to 2023 without having a chapter,” said the group’s advisor, Professor of the Practice Fred Meyer.

Meyer credited two ACI Georgia members, Rob Weilacher and Jonathan Campbell, with planting the seed. Campbell and Weilacher work with structural engineering firm of Uzun + Case, which supports the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering as a Corporate Affiliate Partner.

“We have a very robust ACI Georgia chapter in this area,” Meyer said. “There was a great opportunity for Georgia Tech to have a student chapter that would then get to work along with the Georgia chapter.”

The student chapter, which currently has 23 members, has had six meetings to date. Four events occurred in 2023, including a presentation on diagrid building and a field trip to a construction site at 1081 Juniper Street.

In 2024, the chapter has hosted a guest speaker and participated in a field trip to Standard Concrete Products on Feb. 16. Thirty students — a mix of chapter members and students from Meyer’s prestressed concrete course — went on a tour lead by plant manager Brett Martin and chief engineer and Tech alumnus Fletcher Smith, BS C02.

Chief engineer Fletcher Smith of Standard Concrete Products addresses a group of students in protective gear

Chief engineer Fletcher Smith addresses members of the ACI chapter and students from CEE 6523: Prestressed Concrete. (Photo by Mike Hunter)

There are three other speakers lined up for this semester and a visit to the construction site of a 34-story apartment tower going up near the campus.

The chapter will also participate in the ACI Concrete Convention in New Orleans March 24-28. A team of three undergraduate students will be competing in a mortar workability competition, in which teams mix mortar at the competition site and pour it into a mold made in the shape of the letters “ACI.” Flowability, mixture stability, and carbon neutrality are evaluated to determine the winner.

“I sat down with them initially, went through the design process and gave them some starting points, where they could do some trial mixes and figure out what would work,” Meyer said. “They’ve taken it and run with it on their own. The students we have here are fantastic, they’re self-starters.”

The ACI also offers funding to students in the form of fellowships and scholarships. Chapter president Szeto received the organization’s $5,000 Robert H. Kuhlman scholarship in 2023. Two Tech students are interviewing for fellowships at this year’s ACI conference.

Members of the ACI student chapter can also earn a professional certification. In conjunction with the local ACI Georgia chapter, the Tech chapter is offering the opportunity to get certified as a Level I technician.

“We have eight students interested,” said Meyer. “When they go through that, they get a certificate as a Level I concrete inspector, which means they can do a number of tests. That is nice for them to put on a resume when they go to look for a job one day.”

The American Concrete Institute at Georgia Tech has quickly forged connections between the student body and the concrete industry as well as illuminating career paths for future engineers.

“The ACI student chapter is an incredible way for students to get involved in all aspects of the concrete industry: engineering design, contracting and construction, and research and academia,” said chapter vice president Bo Rider, a master’s student in the Structural Engineering, Mechanics and Materials group.

Meyer is pleased with all that the ACI student chapter has been able to accomplish so far.

“We’re trying to really engage the chapter in all the things that we can and provide opportunities for our students. It’s been a lot of fun.”