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Big Win in the Big Beam Contest for ND

AUTHOR: Nina Welding

PUBLISHED: September 17, 2015

A team of civil engineering students from the University of Notre Dame took top honors in the recent Engineering Student Design Competition [Big Beam Contest] sponsored by Sika Corporation and judged by the Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Student Education Committee.

The challenge tackled by teams from across the country was to design, fabricate, and test a precast/prestressed concrete beam. Each team was allowed to work with a local precast concrete producer and faculty adviser. Beams were judged largely on the load they were able to carry without cracking under a specified service load condition and without failure under a specified ultimate load condition. Final rankings were based on the concrete mix design, material costs of the beam construction, innovation, measured beam behavior, comparisons with design and analytical predictions, and report quality.

Notre Dame students Robert Devine, Michael Brandes, David Terry, Jessica Orlando, Nicholas Bette, Ted Williams, Craig Davila, and Megan McKeon celebrated their win with South Bend producer StresCore Inc. and Professor Yahya Kurama, associate chair of the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering & Earth Sciences, who served as the team’s faculty adviser. As the winners, they received a $2,000 award plus other prizes.

“The designs were based on sound engineering judgment, but the real value is how students learn the importance of the designer-manufacturer relationship in making [beams] come to life,” says PCI Managing Director of Education Alex Morales. And the students agree. According to Brandes, who graduated in May 2015, says, “This class gave us a rare opportunity to take what was learned in the classroom and apply it to a full-scale project. It is classes like these in the Notre Dame engineering program that prepare students for the true nature of the engineering industry.”

A first-year graduate student at the University along with Brandes, Devine is serving as the graduate student mentor for the 2016 Big Beam team. McKeon, a senior says, “It was an amazing experience to work with such a talented team and to see how our design came to life. I’m excited about the possibilities for our 2016 team.”

Rounding out the top five Big Beam Contest challengers were student teams from: Oregon State University (second place), University of Kansas — orange team (third place), University of Washington (fourth place), and University of Kansas — blue team (fifth place).