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Engineering students shine in Big Beam contest


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Big Beam

Several members of the A-Beam team that took first place regionally and fifth place nationally in the Big Beam Contest.

Sacramento State’s Civil Engineering students won first place in regional competition and fifth place nationally in the Big Beam Contest sponsored by PCI, the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI).

The Hornet team not only won $1,000 but defeated three-time national champion Oregon State University from Sac State’s region. It’s the highest that a Hornet team has ever finished in the competition. "The entire team is ecstatic right now," says Alban Gjongecaj, project manager of the A-Beam team. "I had the privilege to lead a team composed of dedicated and enthusiastic individuals who complemented each other’s talents perfectly."

The Big Beam contest’s objective is for student teams to design, fabricate and test a 20-foot precast, prestressed concrete beam with the help of a local precast concrete Producer Member. After fabrication, the beams are tested and prizes awarded to the top three teams in each zone based on scores for design efficiency, load capacity and ductility, accuracy of predictions, innovativeness and other categories.

Competitors sent their results to PCI in Chicago; judging was completed in July.

First-place winners are entered into the national contest. Team member Vandalist Kith, who graduated this spring, says: “The challenging part is to finalize a beam design that the team is satisfied with; there are a million ways to design one beam.”

Sac State’s strong showing is especially impressive because the Hornet team included students who volunteered time to participate in this competition while competing in other national contests as well. “I advised them,” faculty advisor Professor Eric Matsumoto says, “but the A-Beam team did A-plus work.” Matsumoto commends the Hornet squad for showing “fantastic initiative, creativity, resourcefulness and teamwork on the project. The students’ success in design, fabrication, testing and reporting is a tribute to their ability to develop a blend of technical and professional abilities, a hallmark of our program.”

“The excellent support from our long-time industry partners at Clark Pacific was indispensable, yet limited to maximize hands-on learning by our students," Matsumoto says. “Such a project gives students direct exposure to an important industry, which may support their future.”

“The professional and industry experience gained from both the design and fabrication aspects of this competition helped me find a job,” says team member Kimberly Coraza.

The team worked diligently on this project for a whole academic year. Max Hardy says, “When asked to join the Big Beam team, I was kind of hesitant. I knew that this competition would be really hard and taxing on my family and academic life. I realized that I would learn a lot and anything worth doing is always hard.”

"How our students were able to fare so well still amazes me, though these students did work on the project many late nights," Matsumoto says. He admires them for setting the foundation and high standard for future PCI Big Beam teams and recruiting students. “I look forward to another fine group of Sac State civil engineering students continuing in their footsteps next year,” he says.

For media assistance, contact Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

– Alan Miller