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New MU engineering team designing against natural hazard

More than 15 major earthquakes occur throughout the world in an average year, federal statistics show.

In a year that has borne out that statistic all too conspicuously, Mizzou Engineering students have formed a team focusing on the skills required to reduce earthquake damage. The Mizzou Seismic Design Team has been working since last February to design an earthquake-resistant model bridge for a national seismic design competition slated for July.

“Earthquakes are always coming down the pipe,” said team Captain Matthew Wheeler, a civil engineering freshman. “Really, all you can do is design new bridges, and retrofit existing ones, to be as ready as possible for it—and the same principles you use to do that also apply to this contest.”

The first-time competition is sponsored by the Federal Highway Administration, the Transportation Research Board, the South Carolina Department of Transportation and the Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. The contest will be held during the 6th National Seismic Conference on Bridges and Highways scheduled for July 27-30 in Charleston, South Carolina.

Five student teams—including teams from universities in Colorado, Indiana, Oregon and South Carolina as well as Mizzou’s—are competing to build the most earthquake-resistant model bridge using the least amount of material possible. The time it takes to put together each bridge, which must be made out of K’nex, also will help determine the contest winner.

Wheeler said MU’s team, which also includes civil engineering freshmen Sean Collier and Jeremiah Kasinger, can build its 6.5-foot long bridge in less than five minutes. The bridge, which weighs just a bit more than a pound, can hold more than four pounds of weight, Wheeler said.

Sponsors posed the design problem in hopes of stimulating student interest in earthquake engineering, said competition organizer Juan Caicedo, a University of South Carolina assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering.

“Today’s students are going to be the future researchers, designers and policymakers, and we believe it is very important for them to know about the risks and consequences of earthquakes at the undergraduate level,” Caicedo said.



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