Student Organizations

There are a variety of student organizations that relate to structural engineering as well as engineering in general.  Joining a student organization can be a great way to obtain additional out-of-class experience in engineering, participate in personal and professional development opportunities, and make friends and network.  

Student Orgs with Design Projects

Students have the opportunity to obtain out-of-class experience working on design teams in a variety of student organizations, some of which compete in national and international competitions. The competitions students participate in, sometimes in conjunction with national conferences, provide a great opportunity for student engineers to apply the theoretical knowledge learned in the classroom to a real-world design problem. Students that attend these competitions also have the opportunity to meet and network with engineering students from universities around the world as well as professional engineers in fields related to structural engineering. The projects encompass all aspects of a real design project: iterative design phase that balances cost, structural stability and safety, numerical analysis, research and development, material selection and testing, fabrication and construction, and aesthetics. Project management skills such as time, people, and fiscal management are essential for the success of these projects. The rigorous timeline for project completion tests the teams’ ability to resolve unforeseen complications with limited resources in equipment, funds, and materials.

Society of Civil and Structural Engineers (SCSE)

SCSE is the student chapter for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). It is the primary organization that Structural Engineering students participate in. The Society was established to supplement the engineering education of UCSD students, to promote the personal and professional development of its members, and to improve the community of which the students are part, through outreach and community service.  They accomplish this mission through various professional and social events, project teams, and outreach programs. (2020 Virtual Triton Day welcome message to admitted students.)

Steel Bridge Team Project: The ASCE Steel Bridge Competition challenges the participating teams to apply their engineering education to draft, analyze, and fabricate a steel bridge in accordance with the rules and guidelines determined for the year. This competition not only provides students the chance to network with other ASCE students but the opportunity to enhance and refine their leadership and communication skills in a team-based project. Conflicts experienced in a full-scale project that incorporates real-world engineering predicaments, such as time constraints, fabrication error, safe erection processes, and other realistic issues are often overlooked in academia. The categories that the bridge is evaluated on for competition are construction speed, lightness, stiffness, aesthetics, construction economy, structural efficiency and overall performance.

Seismic Design Team Project: UC San Diego’s Seismic Design team competes every year in the Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition hosted by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) which includes 30+ teams from around the world. The objective is to design, construct, and analyze a five-foot tall balsa wood model of a high-rise structure, which is then value-priced and subjected to scaled seismic loading on an instructional shake table.  Team members learn and utilize SAP2000 to virtually test and analyze their designs before construction.  Teams are judged on their oral design presentation, their summary poster, the model’s architectural design, their ability to fit within the design criteria and constraints, their analytical prediction of their model performance, and the response of their model during shaking table testing.  Overall the EERI Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition is a great opportunity for students to gain insight into the field of earthquake engineering. 

Concrete Canoe Team Project: The concrete canoe team designs and constructs a lightweight and strong canoe made of concrete to compete at the annual National Concrete Canoe Competition hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The competition challenges students to design and build a 20-foot long canoe out of concrete. A set of prescribed rules governs the design of the concrete and all other aspects of the competition. Students apply what they have learned in class and from other students to design and analyze the canoe, using programs like AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Matlab, and SAP2000. They also gain hands-on experience mixing and testing concrete, constructing the mold and reinforcement systems, applying the aesthetic designs, and ultimately fabricating the competition canoe.  The team competes against 18 other schools in the Pacific Southwest Conference. At PSWC, each team is judged in four categories: aesthetics, canoe races, an oral presentation, and a technical paper. The top team moves on to the national competition where they compete against other regional winners. In 2018-2019 the UCSD team placed 2nd at the Pacific Southwest Conference.  The Pacific Southwest Conference also has additional technical events that teams compete in including GeoWall, Transportation, Surveying, Environmental, Timber-Strong Design, and Sustainable Dam.


Seismic Outreach Program: One of SCSE’s special projects is its Seismic Outreach Program, a collaborative multi-month effort in which undergraduate students reach out to elementary school students to introduce them to structural engineering and earthquake science. The goal of the project is to encourage young students to think about higher education and studies in science and engineering by integrating an introductory presentation on earthquakes and engineering and a K’NEX Building Competition. The program is split into two phases, “In Class Presentations” and “Field Trips”. UCSD students initially visit the fourth and sixth grade classrooms that will be participating in the program and present about earthquakes, structural engineering and the K’NEX competition.  The fourth/sixth grade students are then given approximately five weeks to prepare for the competition. In this Design-Build process, the fourth/sixth grade students prepare the following: structure of a skyscraper made out of K’NEX, basic construction drafts, architectural drawings, and a short presentation of their work.  During their field trip, they have their structures judged and tested on a mini shake table, take a tour of the campus, and have an opportunity to interact with UCSD students. 

AIAA and Design Build and Fly Aircraft Competition

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is a pre-professional student organization that emphasizes mentorship, learning, and interconnectivity, with the goal of preparing members for a future in aerospace. They aim to connect students to a national network of industry and academic professionals, hiring managers, and high-profile members of the aerospace community.

Design, Build, Fly is part of AIAA and is a chance for undergraduate students to get real-world experience in design, fabrication, report writing, and flight testing of an aircraft. Student teams design, fabricate and demonstrate the flight capabilities of an unmanned, electric powered, radio controlled aircraft which can best meet the specified mission profile. The goal is a balanced design possessing good demonstrated flight handling qualities and practical and affordable manufacturing requirements while providing a high vehicle performance. To encourage innovation and maintain a fresh design challenge for each new year’s participants, the design requirements and performance objective will be updated for each new contest year. The changes will provide new design requirements and opportunities while allowing for application of technology developed by the teams from prior years.

AUVSI Autonomous Aircraft Competition

The AUVSI Foundation is dedicated to increasing interest in autonomous vehicles. The UCSD Triton Unmanned Aerial Systems team competes annually in Lexington, Maryland where the competition challenges them to design, integrate, report on, and demonstrate a UAS capable of autonomous flight and navigation, remote sensing via onboard payload sensors, and execution of a specific set of tasks. It is an international competition which hosts teams from around the globe and gives students a chance to network with professionals of the unmanned systems industry. The overall team score is determined by three criteria: a journal paper, flight readiness review, and flight demonstration.

Construction Management Association of American (CMAA)

The Mission of CMAA is to promote the profession of Construction Management and the use of qualified Construction Managers on capital projects and programs.  CMAA is leading the growth and acceptance of construction management as a professional discipline that can add significant value to the entire construction process, from conception to ongoing operation.  Membership in CMAA includes more than 14,000 firms and individuals including owners, engineers, architects, contractors, educators, and students—everyone with a stake in the construction industry's success.  Welcome message to new students (2020)CMAA participates in the Associated Schools of Construction (ASC) competition.  

Human Powered Submarine Competition

The Human Powered Submarine team designs and builds a fast, safe, and reliable fiberglass submarine that competes at international submarine races, which take place in Bethesda, Maryland and Gossport, UK. Scuba-certified students control the submerged and flooded submarine with human-powered propulsion. Students working on this project learn essential CAD, machining, and programming skills and gain a deeper understanding of the concepts that they learn in their classes. The most recent submarine, completed in 2018, is "Vaquita," named for an endangered species of dolphin. Competing in the one-person non-propellor division, Vaquita featured an up-down tail for propulsion, a unique six-bar linkage, and the team's very first pneumatics systems. This team is part of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) student organization.

SAMPE Composite Bridge Competition

The Society for the Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering (SAMPE) at UCSD student organization participates in the annual SAMPE student bridge contest. This contest allows students to design, build, and test a miniature structural bridge using various composite materials in accordance with a set of well-defined rules. This is an international competition involving schools from around the globe.

SEDS Rocket Development

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) at UCSD is an undergraduate student-run research group that aims to advance the future of space exploration and development technology.  They have been known for their groundbreaking, 3D-printed engines.  Every year SEDS USA and SSPI partner to present a design competition focused on challenging university students to create innovative solutions to technical problems. The 2018 challenge was to develop a multi-purpose space vehicle capable of performing one of several possible tasks, e.g. cargo transport or space debris clean-up.  The UCSD team designed Argo which is a space-tug designed to provide safe, reliable, consistent, and cost-effective transportation of cargo from low Earth orbit to any cis-lunar or low-lunar orbits. Its cargo missions may range from satellite deployment to delivering of cargo to a base in lunar orbit and earned first place in the competition.


The Triton³ student organization provides students the opportunity to expand and test their knowledge by designing and fabricating a CubeSat. Participants of the Triton³ work closely with other students and faculty members, as well as collaborate with other companies, to complete this multifaceted disciplinary project.

Triton Racing

Triton Racing is UCSD’s Formula SAE team dedicated to the design, fabrication, and testing of an open-wheel prototype race car for the Formula Society of Automotive Engineers (FSAE) competition held annually in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Formula SAE series competitions challenge teams of university undergraduate and graduate students to conceive, design, fabricate, develop, and compete with small, formula-style vehicles. The competition itself consists of both static and dynamic events.


Additional Student Organizations

Tau Beta Pi (TBP)

Tau Beta Pi (TBP) at UCSD is a member of the National TBP engineering honor society.  Engineering students who rank in the top 1/8 of juniors and the top 1/5 of seniors are contacted by TBP for possible membership.  These students are eligible for membership in TBP if they complete an interview process as well as pass the exemplary character criteria.  Throughout the year, TBP invites speakers to club meetings and organizes tours of companies. 


National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)

NSBE is committed to supporting diverse programs that enrich underrepresented engineering student professionally and academically. NSBE also promotes programs that encourage and influence young students in impoverished urban communities to pursue science and engineering degrees. NSBE's outreach programs create more dynamic interactive pre-college outreach programs that target minority into science and engineering study.

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM)

Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (oSTEM) is a nationally recognized organization that is geared towards the personal and professional development of queer or LGBTQIA+ students who are interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics through social, educational, professional, philanthropic, and outreach programming. It is also focused on helping students throughout UCSD and San Diego connect to a broader community of queer folks (students and professionals) whose academic interests lie in similar fields.

Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE)

The Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE) is a pre-professional organization which is devoted to promoting professional development and preparing undergraduates for their future. SASE provides members with resources such as resume workshops, networking opportunities, professional exposure, and company visits. 

Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)

          The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) was founded in Los Angeles, California, in 1974 by a group of engineers employed by the city of Los Angeles.  Their objective was to form a national organization of professional engineers to serve as role models in the Hispanic community.  Networking was the key basis for the organization. Today SHPE enjoys a strong but independent network of professional and student chapters throughout the nation with over 10,500 members. 

Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

The Society of Women Engineers is a not-for-profit educational and service organization that empowers women to succeed and advance in the field of engineering, and to be recognized for their life-changing contributions as engineers and leaders. Founded in 1950, SWE is the driving force that establishes engineering as a highly desirable career for women through an exciting array of training and development programs, networking opportunities, scholarships, outreach, and advocacy activities. 


Find additional student organizations through the Center for Student Involvement and the IDEA Center.