Big Beam Competition honors Missouri, N. Arizona, Lehigh teams

University of Missouri Kansas City, Team 2 took the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute 2021 Engineering Student Design Competition, also known as the Big Beam Competition. Jose Luis Ramirez and Juan Carlos Plasencia Chinchay prevailed with guidance from Civil Engineering Professor Thiagarajan Ganesh and Terry Fleck of Coreslab Structures (Kansas).

Now in its 21st year, Big Beam teaches college students important structural engineering skills in an applied learning environment that will benefit them in their future professions. Student teams and a faculty advisor design, build and test a 20-ft., precast, prestressed concrete beam. Local PCI-certified producers act as mentors. Entries are judged on beam performance in stress tests that simulate the types of real-life conditions structural building and heavy/civil elements must shoulder, plus the quality of teams’ beam analysis, reports and overview video.

“It is a great experience to participate in this outstanding competition,” says Professor Ganesh. “I have coaxed and encouraged students to participate in it for the learning alone, which itself adds so much value to [their] overall prestressed concrete knowledge.” In a nod to Coreslab Structures, he adds, “At the University of Missouri Kansas City, we have been very fortunate to have the enthusiastic support of our local sponsor every time we approach them and are grateful for their help.”

“The Big Beam competition is an outstanding opportunity to introduce the next generation of designers to precast, prestressed concrete,” adds PCI President and CEO Bob Risser. “By working with member producers, students get a hands-on educational experience as well as learning about the industry. We hope the experience leads them to understand the benefits of precast, prestressed concrete throughout their professional careers and value of participating in PCI.”

The 2021 Big Beam competition was sponsored by ALP Supply and PCI’s Aspire magazine. Cash prizes are awarded to the top performers in efficient design, highest load capacity, and other categories. Teams will be recognized at the 2022 PCI Convention, March 1-5, in Kansas City, Mo. Joining the Missouri KC Team 2 ($2,000 prize) among top performers, by Big Beam final result and prize:

Second place, $1,750. Northern Arizona University [The Reinforcers], Flagstaff; faculty advisor, Robin Tuchscherer, PhD, PE; PCI mentor, Gabriella Wilson of TPac (an EnCon Company), Phoenix.

Third place, $1,500. Lehigh University; Bethlehem, Pa.; faculty advisor, Clay Naito, PhD, PE; PCI mentor, David Schneider of High Concrete, Denver, Pa. (Team also earned $500 Best Video prize.)

Remaining finishers, $1,000 or $1,250. California State University, Sacramento; faculty advisor, Eric Matsumoto, PhD, PE; PCI mentor, Brian Bertain of Clark Pacific, Woodland, Calif. (Team also earned $500 Best Report prize.) Florida International University Team 1, Miami; faculty advisor, David Garber, PhD, PE; PCI mentor, Luis Compres of Coreslab Structures, Miami. University of Missouri Kansas City Team 1; faculty advisor, Ganesh Thiagarajan; PCI mentor, Terry Fleck of Coreslab Structures, Kansas City.

Top gun University of Missouri Kansas City Team 2 presented loading and testing of its 20-ft. Big Beam entry from three angles. The beam is shown here at 1.5 in. and 3.2 in. deflection, then failure at deflection just shy of 4 inches.