Close to Completion - 2013 Ice Arch

Ice Arch 2013_1Ice Arch 2013_5

Photo left: The soon-to-be ice arch still in molds. Photo by Todd Paris, UAF
Photo right: Team member Brett Wells provides finishing touches on the ice arch and removes any bulges. Photo by Katrina Monta.

The wooden structures prominently displayed in the middle of the Cornerstone Plaza in front of the Duckering Building are not water troughs for moose passing by or new flower planters for this spring but rather are forming the pieces of this year's ice arch. The annual tradition of building an arch has existed at UAF for over 50 years. Every winter, engineering students-mostly but not exclusively civil engineering majors-team up and construct an ice arch. The design and methods used in the construction varies from year to year.

Ice Arch 2013_3 Team member Katrina Monta (Civil Engineering) fills the molds with a sawdust-water mixture that, when frozen, will form a highly durable material. As the project representative, Katrina is responsible for the documentation of this year's ice arch. Photo by Todd Paris, UAF.

The architectural brain behind this year's structure is co-captain of the ice arch team Ryan Cudo. Inspired by the idea of his classmate Pat Brandon , Cudo decided to use a rather interesting composite material for building: pykrete. Pykrete is a mixture of saw dust and water, that, when kept frozen, exhibits the structural strength and durability of concrete. First developed in the early 20th century, its use was once proposed as a candidate for making huge, unsinkable ships during WWII. This material has never been used in a UAF arch and will be tested for the very first time in this year's arch design. Given its properties, it seems only appropriate to give pykrete a try. Will Riley, captain of the ice arch team, and his team mates determined through a lot of testing that the perfect ratio of the pykrete needed to be 18 % white spruce saw dust and 82 % water by weight.

Ice Arch 2013_4 Team captain Will Riley (Mechanical Engineering/Chemistry) is assembling the ice arch molds that will later be filled with pykrete. The molds are supported by "ribs" made out of 2x4 frames. Photo by Ryan Cudo.

While last year's ice arch was constructed using blocks of ice that were supported by a wooden frame until the arch could stand on its own, this year's structure is built using continuous molds. The intuitive design of these molds and their special feature, a ribbed support structure made out of 2x4 frames, can be attributed to Will Riley. The construction of this year's ice arch - a multi-stage process which involves assembling the molds, mixing and pouring the pykrete and finally erecting the structure - began during the last part of Christmas break. Once the molds were assembled and put in place, the pykrete was poured in small increments every 24 hours at outside temperatures ranging from -5 to 10F. Both team members and volunteers have been working hard to get the ice arch ready for completion and have spent about 2 hours each night mixing and pouring pykrete. Raising of the arch is scheduled for the afternoon of February 20, 2013. Ghemm Co., a local company in Fairbanks, has agreed to volunteer their time and equipment to help lift the pieces into place for the final assembly of the arch.

Students involved in building the 2013 ice arch include:
Team Co-Captain Will Riley (Mechanical Engineering/Chemistry), Co-Captain and Designer Ryan Cudo (Civil Engineering; ASCE President), Project Representative Katrina Monta (Civil Engineering) and Brett Wells (Civil Engineering), a dedicated member who has helped mixing and pouring of pykrete during the late hours of the night. The ice arch team also had help from fellow student volunteers who all contributed to the construction in some form or another: Daniel Hjortstrop, Justin Calkins, Martin Grey, Brett Martino, Tux Seims and Thomas Osterman.

Ice Arch 2013_2 Team co-captain and arch designer Ryan Cudo (Civil Engineering) checks on the filling that just got poured into the mold. Photo by Todd Paris, UAF.