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Concrete skills earn national recognition for KU engineering students

Wednesday, October 03, 2012
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LAWRENCE — A team of architectural engineering students from the University of Kansas School of Engineering received high honors for accomplishments in a national prestressed concrete beam design competition.

The group of Jayhawk engineers finished second place nationally in the 2012
Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) 2012 Big Beam Contest.

"The recognition is great. It was a good learning experience – and we even get some award money out of it," said Eric Bonet, a first-year graduate student in structural engineering from Darien, Ill. Bonet was on the team with 2012 KU School of Engineering graduates Kimberly Hannon, Lawrence; Tyrone Polleri, Peru; and Michael Whitten, Eudora, as part of a senior design class. The team won the PCI Big Beam regional competition, qualified for and finished second at nationals and brought home $1,750 for their efforts. Another KU team finished second in the regional PCI Big Beam competition.

The PCI Big Beam National Competition testing takes place entirely within the concrete labs on college campuses around the country. Students had to design a prestressed concrete beam that spanned 18 feet and then apply stress and monitor it for cracking and failure. Coreslab Structures Inc., in Kansas City, Kan., used designs from the Jayhawk team to fabricate the concrete beam for the competition.

Guidelines called for cracks to appear in the beam when 20,000 pounds was applied – and for failure to occur when the weight reached between 32,000 and 39,000 pounds. Before the weight was applied, each team had to record estimates on when cracking and failure would occur.

"We were almost spot-on with our predictions and earned a great score. It really helped in the competition," Bonet said.

Teams then submitted their predictions and results to PCI for evaluation.

"This competition proves to be a great educational experience for the students," said Bob Lyon, faculty supervisor of KU's Big Beam team. "They learn a lot about design, fabrication and behavior of prestressed concrete, and they continue to represent KU very well."

Lyon is a registered professional engineer and lecturer in the Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering.

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