Civil Engineers restore tradition with this year’s Ice Arch

Lakeidra Chavis/ Sun Star Reporter
Feb. 21, 2012

UAF Engineering students and volunteers work on the Ice Arch in Cornerstone Plaza near the Bunnel building on the UAF Campus. Kayla Hajdukovich/Sun Star

At UAF, tradition is essential. This year, three engineering students banded together to restore the 90-year-old ice arch tradition.

With the guidance of Leroy Husley, the students kicked off National Engineers Week with the construction of the 2012 arch.

“There wasn’t an ice arch last year, and to be honest, that got a lot of us in the civil depart bummed out,” 22 year-old civil engineering student Stephen Lee said. “So we decided for sure, that there was going to be an ice arch.”

“It’s kind of to show off how cool engineers are,” 24 year-old civil engineering student Andy Chamberlain said. Chamberlain created the design for the ice arch. The design won first place in the Ice Structure Competition. The UAF chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) opened the competition to students last December, offering a prize of up to $700. Although there was no specific inspiration for the design, a banner displaying “90 Years of Engineering” will hang from the arch once it is completed.

This year’s ice arch underwent numerous changes to the design and its construction.

“This one’s different from recent arches because it’s built out of blocks,” Chamberlain said. In previous years the ice was poured into a metal frame and then lifted off the ground with a crane. Since these arches had metal in them, they were not entirely constructed of ice. This year’s ice arch is made completely of ice, he said.

There have been difficulties with the project, a lot of which were unpredictable.

“Some of it was because the weather was really cold, right when we had a lot of stuff to do,” Chamberlain said. At times, the team was outside working at minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit. “The warm weather hasn’t really caused us a lot of problems yet,” he said.

The incomplete ice arch requires wooden falsework, a supporting wood structure, until the arch can stand on its own. The falsework includes bolts. When the ice arch is completed, volunteers will use the bolts to dismantle the wooden falsework and remove it, leaving only the ice arch to remain. The team members built the structure during the cold weather. 

As for the actual arch, the base blocks weigh an average of 300 pounds and the smaller blocks weigh half that amount. A design change for the ice arch created a wider base for the base blocks, allowing the structure to be stable. At first, the crew members lifted some of these smaller blocks by hand. As the arch grew, they used a pulley system to reach the higher parts of the arch.

Since the structure is made up of blocks, joints became a challenge for the builders. Joints are the areas where the top and bottom of each block touches the blocks next to it. If there are large gaps in between the joints, the structure would not be able to stay together.

“Our problem is that we don’t know exactly how much gap is too much gap,” 23-year-old civil engineering student Sam Carlson said. To cut the ice, the team uses chainsaws and jigsaws. The better the spacing between the ice blocks, the better the ice blocks will fit together.

The crew members have been working past midnight trying to finish the arch, Lee said. Although the work is serious and can be dangerous, working on the arch is meant to be fun, Carlson said.

The ice arch can be seen in the circle of flags on campus. The team expects to finish the arch before the start of National Engineers Week. National Engineers Week begins Feb. 19 to celebrate engineering and encourage students who might be interested in the field to give it a try.

“It’s a good time to get involved, you don’t have to be an engineering major to help out,” Carlson said.


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *