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Civil engineering students rank high at ASCE competition

Geo Wall team members practice building their structure before competition.

University of Missouri civil engineering student teams competed in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) competition held in Lincoln, Neb. on April 20 and 21, 2012.


After placing fifth at nationals in San Francisco, the Mizzou GeoWall placed second at regionals in the ASCE competition.

“The competition went very smoothly. The team put in a ton of hours over the past two semesters preparing for nationals and regionals. During the competition, the team really demonstrated the time and commitment that was spent practicing,” said Joe Gilliam, GeoWall member and president of ASCE.

The Geo Wall team placed second in regionals at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) competition held in Lincoln, Neb. on April 20 and 21, 2012.

Behind every brick retaining wall, there is sand that keeps the structure stable. The retaining wall actually does very little; stability depends on the weight and density of sand.

The GeoWall team uses the concept, but competes to create the sturdiest wall with the least materials.

They start with an empty box with a removable side, buckets of sand, and strips of paper. The strips of paper are attached to a poster board, which will eventually replace one side of the box. The strips are laid down methodically in the box, and sand is poured on each strip. The idea is that the weight of the sand holds down the strips so well that the poster board wall is stabilized, allowing it to support pounds of sand.

Laying each strip down individually, GeoWall members pour sand and pat it down, to make it denser until the box is completely filled with sand. The removable side is taken off, and the sand is contained in the box by the poster board alone.

Then the team places a 50 pound bucket of sand on top of the sand in the box. If the poster board remains stiff and the sand doesn’t break through, the GeoWall is successful.

They also place a bucket on pipes leading out of the box, in order to put horizontal weight on the wall. The 25 pound bucket hangs over the side of the box, putting great stress on the wall, and if it stays firm, the wall is successful.

During a practice before regionals, the team put 12 pounds over their usual limit on the box, and the wall withstood it.

“This is the best box we’ve made,” John Fandrey said.

The team has one hour to create the poster board, fill the bucket with sand, and test its limits. Points are deducted for total weight of materials, going over the time limit and failure of the wall.

Concrete Canoe

Mizzou Engineering’s Concrete Canoe team placed third overall, and had a blast doing so.

Mizzou Engineering’s Concrete Canoe team placed third overall.

During the race on Saturday it was 45 degrees and raining with high winds, so the team set up a tent to block the gale. Zachary Treece, concrete canoe captain, said the whole team packed in a five-person tent was quite a sight to see.

The team placed first in the oral presentation category, second in the co-ed sprint race and third in the final product category and women’s endurance race.

“We got into a Twitter war with Arkansas about who had the best canoe and as it turns out their canoe sank, so I guess we won that battle,” Treece joked.

Though the team was still working on the product display the night before they left for the competition, everything came together smoothly and successfully.

“I’m very proud of our team and their hard work that paid off at our competition,” said Treece.

Steel Bridge

The Mizzou Engineering Steel Bridge team placed third overall and qualified for Nationals.

The Mizzou Engineering Steel Bridge team placed third overall and qualified for Nationals.

The competition was split up into categories such as timed construction, vertical deflection and weight.

“We did not do as great as we had hoped for in the vertical deflection, but we did well enough in the other categories, especially timed construction, to place third overall,” said steel bridge president Russell Voss.

The team also received third place honors in aesthetics and economy.

Because of their success, the team will be attending the national competition on May 25 to 26 at the University of Clemson.

“We have a great deal of work ahead of us to fix a few flaws in the bridge so it can be better for nationals,” Voss said.

ASCE President Joe Gilliam considered the competition an overall success for MU.

“Each team was active in their support for the other MU teams. (John) Bowders added to the excitement of every competition with his passion and genuine interest in the success of MU. All-in-all, the trip to Lincoln was one of the best regional trips MU has made for ASCE in recent years,” Gilliam said.