|December 2, 1999
Volume 30 Number 9
|A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico|
Chico State's Civil Engineers Win Regional Competition Once Again
California State University, Chico's civil engineering students have captured an intercollegiate design competition for the third time in the last four years. Chico defeated CSU, Sacramento, the University of the Pacific, and UC, Davis, at the Structural Engineers Association of Central California (SEAOCC) structural design contest held in three stages in October and November.
For the contest, engineering students must design and construct a structure according to specific dimensional and material limitations. The objective is to produce a structure that is easy to assemble, has a high strength-weight ratio, and has a predictable failure mode. After each team has predicted the amount of weight the structure is capable of supporting and identified where in the structure the failure is expected to occur, the structures are loaded to the point of collapse.
The Chico team of four civil engineering students built a 12-foot by 4-foot by 5-inch custom truss, called an "underslung" truss. The structure was constructed from all of the materials allowed—steel, aluminum, and wood—and was designed to fail by the tearing of a steel gusset plate at a connecting bolt. This kind of failure is actually considered an undesirable way for structures to fail, as it is sudden, gives little warning, and has little reserve strength. By designing a structure to fail in this way, the students also learn how to design structures which won't fail in this way. Several lab tests showed that the force required to cause the failure was very consistent, and therefore, easy to identify by the judges.
The competition was divided into three stages with different deadlines—a design phase, a timed assembly phase, and a presentation phase. The design phase required the teams to submit a design report with substantiating engineering calculations, the same type of calculations that would be performed for a real building or bridge in order to evaluate its strength. Most real structures are not analyzed to this level of detail and sophistication.
The next phase, held a week later at UC, Davis, included a timed assembly period. Chico's structure took about 2 1/2 minutes to assemble—one of our slower times, since the structure was more complicated than past entries. The added complexity paid off in accuracy of predictions. The Chico team gained additional points by using a variety of materials. The structures were loaded in a large testing device, called a hydraulic load frame, until they collapsed.
Of the four teams, Chico's was the only one to accurately predict both the magnitude of the failure load and the type of failure. Chico's structure missed the predicted load by only nine pounds. With a predicted load of 3,409 pounds and an actual failure load of 3,418 pounds, it was one of the most accurate predictions ever realized at this competition.
The final phase, on November 9 at the annual SEAOCC student night meeting in Sacramento, required each student team to give a short presentation on all stages of the competition. The final places were announced during the meeting, with Chico placing first overall and receiving a prize of $400.
The civil engineering students have out-performed some of the best universities in the nation and continue to bring prestige to the civil engineering department at Chico State. Such competitions provide invaluable preparation for careers as civil engineers. The Chico State design team was composed of Josh Wallace, Jason Zwinggi, Jared Holliday, and Brian Stephenson. The faculty adviser for the group is Dr. Russell Mills. Shop technicians Jim Luallen and Mike Renwick assisted in fabrication of the structure. -- Josh Wallace and Russell Mills, Civil Engineering
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