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Two-campus team takes top regional honors in Big Beam Competition

The unified UMKC and Missouri University of Science and Technology Big Beam Team walked away with a win in PCI Engineering’s 2014 Big Beam Contest.

UMKC School of Computing and Engineering students Timothy Hines, Kristen Reynolds and Mayuri Patil were responsible for designing and building an 18-foot beam of precast-prestressed concrete. Their S&T teammates, Eli Hernandez, Alex Griffin, Hayder Alghazali and Kaylea Smith, tested the beam. This was the third time the schools allied to compete in the contest.

The team’s beam, evaluated based on its composite and design, placed first in the regional competition.

“Coreslab [Structures] sponsored our beam and has sponsored us for the last three years,” Patil said. “They gave us some of the materials like cables and helped us pour the concrete into the mold that acts like an ice cube tray. Once the concrete hardens, it has the strength necessary. Everything was tested out at Rolla.”

The beams are tested by first applying 500 pounds and then checking the structure after each two additional tons. At each interval the team must check for cracks. Once a weight of 10 tons is applied, the cracks have to be measured.

“The challenge is to fit the criteria of the beam based on the capacity the judges wanted. Steel rods are typically part of the core, but in ours we had pretension cables to make it more like a rubber band,” Patil said. “Once concrete is poured, we cut the tensions from both sides. Cutting the cords helps compress the beam, thereby increasing the capacity of weight it can hold.”

Each region’s first-place winner qualified to advance to national competition, where the UMKC/S&T  team  placed fifth, winning a $1,000 prize.

“It is really great to have so much support from the school of engineering,” Patil said. “Our team has been participating for years. This year we thought ‘we have to put our best forward.’”

And that they did.

“The professors, too, helped encourage us to put ourselves out there,” Patil said. “These things teach you a lot. Just the theory doesn’t help you imagine the application process. The competition is more physical than the learning you do in the classroom. It’s all right in front of our eyes. And as a team we were able to fail and learn from it.”

If they won because they weren’t afraid to fail, then we could all do with a little less fear.

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