For the third straight year, Sacramento State’s Civil Engineering students have won the Structural Engineers Association of Central California (SEAOCC) student design competition. The victorious team received $1,000, which will help fund future SEAOCC activities at Sacramento State. Jeffrey Riley was awarded a $750 scholarship for his outstanding academic and extracurricular record.
The yearly competition featured squads from Sacramento State, UC Davis and Chico State, with the seven-member Hornet team prevailing.
The design and construction phase of the competition was held at Sacramento State where the students were given instructions to design and build a wood structure that met span length and height specifications.
Faculty advisor and assistant professor Ben Fell has an unbroken winning streak since coming to campus in 2008. The New York native, who specializes in structural engineering, was especially proud of his squad’s ability to design, build and present its project to the specifications within a 210-minute time limit.
After breaking for lunch, the competing teams placed their structures within a large compression machine, the size of a small office, which generates 300,000 pounds of force. Sacramento State’s structure, measuring 96 inches by 24 inches, was able to withstand more force than the other two entries. This part of the competition accounted for 70 percent of their score.
The remaining 30 percent was determined by the strength of each team’s verbal presentation to explain why its structure failed and what could be done to improve the construction. A panel of professional engineers evaluated each squad and concluded that Sacramento State’s squad was the strongest.
Fell credits the Hornet victory to sound academic preparation. Each team is expected to apply what they have learned in class to create a structure. “We have a very strong department,” he says, “with a focus on teaching and a strong balance of applied scholarship.” The hands-on experience that Sacramento State’s engineering students get in the classrooms and laboratories, he says, gives them an edge in competition. That’s particularly important in a highly competitive job market where employers are seeking graduates with practical experience.