Civil engineers crunch numbers in calculation contests
By Chloe Mathieu
Western civil engineering students worked for their tuition yesterday at the fifth annual Peter S. Higgins Structural Analysis Competition held in the Engineering Science Building.
The competition involved calculating the load-bearing capacity of a two-metre-long concrete slab or, more simply, figuring out how much pressure it will take to break it.
Contestants had until Feb. 5 to submit their calculations, the top 16 of which had the opportunity to participate in yesterday's event. There were five groups of two and three people and the rest competed as individuals.
Nicholas Isyumov, this year's co-ordinator and Western civil engineering professor, said the contest is an excellent way for students to pay for their tuition and books thanks to the monetary rewards. "This challenge is a wonderful way for contestants to put the information in their text books to practical use," he said. Isyumov added the contest is an extremely rigorous process for the students, who are required to submit all of their calculations along with their estimate beforehand.
Judging was done by a panel consisting of one practicing structural engineer, five faculty members from the civil engineering department and one civil engineering graduate student, Isyumov said.
Addie Blankestijn, a practicing structural engineer and judge, said the concrete slab cracked under 47,564 kg of pressure. Fourth-year civil-structural student Raymond Pierre's submission estimating 45,599 kg to break the concrete block made him the first-place winner.
Pierre will receive $3,650 and a plaque for his calculation. "It's like winning a lottery," he said.
Second-place winner Rick McComb, a second year civil environmental student, earned $800 for his calculation of 41,415 kg.
The winnings proved especially exciting for engineering student Mike Baldinelli, a spectator at the event. "The winner of this contest traditionally hosts a keg party for the other civil engineering students," he said.
Pierre said he was unsure if he would carry on the tradition.
Bryan Vanbussel, last year's student convenor of the competition, said this year's competition was somewhat different. "Five steel structures were used last year which forced the contestants to make five predictions instead of one."
The contest is sponsored by Peter Higgins, a former Western engineering student, who provides the prize money and plans for the annual structure.