Northeast Prestressed guides Lehigh team to top of Big Beam field

Team 2 from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. earned a $2,000 prize by leading the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute’s 19th Engineering Student Design Competition. Also known as the Big Beam Competition, the national event teaches college and university students important structural engineering skills in an applied learning environment they will use in precast concrete practice throughout their construction careers.

Lehigh University Team 2’s Maximilian Beedle, Aerick Carlton and Michael Drury.

“The PCI Big Beam Competition is an excellent opportunity to integrate a realistic design and testing experience into the class curriculum,” says Professor Clay Naito. “Lehigh University has been fortunate to participate for a number of years with the help of great local precast producers, including our 2018-19 sponsor, [Northeast Prestressed Products].”

The competition involves teams of students and their faculty advisors designing, building and testing a 22-ft. precast concrete beam. Local or regional PCI producers provide students with ongoing mentorship. Project entries are judged on the beam’s performance in stress tests that simulate the types of real-life conditions structural building and infrastructure components must endure to ensure life safety, as well as the quality of their reports and project overview videos. Lehigh Team 2, aka Precasta’s Paradise, crafted a beam tested to these performance characteristics:

Cracking Load (kips) 21.19 22.387
Ultimate Load (kips) 35.36 37.085
Deflection (inches) 2.64 2.787

“It’s easy to forget about constructability when you are looking at numbers on a computer screen, but having to think about how we would actually put this beam together opened my eyes to what needs to be considered on the design front,” says Lehigh University student Mike Drury.

“A key goal of PCI’s strategic plan calls for developing programs for future professionals—students—to become familiar with precast concrete technology in practice,” notes PCI President and CEO Bob Risser, P.E. “The Big Beam contest is an outstanding example of one of those programs. The contest also offers students a hands-on learning opportunity in prestressed concrete design and performance, as well as honing students’ presentation skills and creativity.”

Joining Lehigh University Team 2 in the 2019 Big Beam top five, second place to fourth place (tie), with $1,750 to $1,250 cash prizes, are these teams and PCI advisors: RAMA-Beam of Idaho State University and Teton Prestress Concrete of Idaho Falls; The B.E.A.M. Team of Northern Arizona University and TPAC/Kiewit Western Co., Phoenix; Expect the Unexpected of the University of Alabama and Gate Precast Co., Monroeville, Ala.; and, Team University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and County Materials Corp., Salem, Ill. Lehigh University Team 1, also backed by Northeast Prestressed, took sixth place and $1,000 prize.

Also placing in the 2019 Big Beam Competition, earning $250 or $500 prizes, were these PCI producer-guided teams, in descending order: University of Minnesota, Duluth, with Molin Concrete Products, Lino Lakes, Minn.; The Reinforcements of California State University, Sacramento, with Clark Pacific, Woodland, Calif.; Colorado State University; Fort Collins, with Wells Concrete, Denver; Dream Beam of Idaho State University, Pocatello, with Forterra Structural Precast, Caldwell, Idaho; B5 Engineering and Tiny Beam teams of Bradley University, Peoria, Ill., with ICCI Illini Concrete, Tremont, Ill.; Shear Madness of Iowa State University, Ames, with Forterra Pipe and Precast; Iowa Falls; University of Kansas, Lawrence, with Coreslab Structures, Kansas City; Born to Break of Minnesota State University, Mankato, with Wells Concrete, Wells, Minn.; University of Missouri, Kansas City, Teams 1 & 2 with Coreslab Structures, Kansas City; United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. with Blakeslee Prestress, Branford, Conn.; and, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va. with Shockey Precast, Winchester, Va. In addition to placing in the main field, the California State University, Sacramento team received Big Beam Best Report and Best Video honors.