By Jason Patterson
Published: Monday, April 5, 2010
Updated: Monday, April 5, 2010
The Big Beam team designs and builds concrete girders for bridges.
Starting with a pile of rebar and some bags of concrete, the Big Beam Team from the School of Computing and Engineering is engaged in a real-world competition designed to test their knowledge before they enter the workforce.
The Big Beam Contest is sponsored by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute and is designed to help Civil Engineering students gain the knowledge to design and build concrete girders for bridges.
Every time you drive over a concrete bridge, you are benefiting from the knowledge gained by these students.
“It’s a good experience working in a team,” Sheedal Ajgaonkar, graduate student and beam designer, said. “We will get to see the actual casting done so, overall, it will be a very nice experience and provide practical knowledge for when we get into the workforce.”
The Big Beam Contest is quite involved. It starts with the students designing a 15-foot long concrete beam.
The beam must be able to support a minimum load over its span and be at least eight inches wide.
Then the team must do a variety of calculations to predict how much load can be applied to the beam before it starts to crack and fail. This step is important because part of their report for the competition requires them to predict when it will fail and they are judged on their accuracy.
After the team finishes their calculations and they are happy with the design, it is time to build the beam.
In the past, the team has been actively involved in the construction. But this year, the company that has assisted with the construction changed their procedure and will no longer allow the students to help in the construction process.
After the beam is built and it has cured for at least 28 days to reach its full strength, the team will travel with the beam to the University of Nebraska at Omaha to have it tested.
Unfortunately, UMKC lacks the equipment to load test beams of this length so it is necessary to go to another school to conduct the test.
When the load test is complete, the team will write their final report to submit for judging.
Their beam design is judged based on accuracy, cost of construction, overall weight, largest measured deflection before failure, most accurate prediction of applied load, cracking load and deflection at maximum load.
They are also judged on the quality of their report and the practicality, innovation and conformance to code.
The team recruits graduate and undergraduate students. Unlike other teams, the Big Beam Team does not have to travel to competitions. They must submit their reports by June 15.
For more information on the Big Beam Team, check out the Web site at /cme/students/teams/big_beam.aspx.