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04-20-2004

Clarkson Students Prepare To Bring Concrete Beam To The Breaking Point

This week at the Clarkson University’s Structural Engineering Laboratory, five Clarkson students are testing a concrete beam they have designed and cast as part of a national competition sponsored by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI).

The collegiate competition invites student teams to design, cast, and test a 15-foot long precast concrete beam with the help of a local PCI producer member. Teams must submit a design and testing report by May 31 for the final judging. The awards program will include cash prizes for the most efficient design, highest load capacity, best report, and other categories.

The Clarkson PCI Big Beam team includes Clarkson seniors and co-captains Scott J. Butler (Schenectady, N.Y.) and Michael P. Fuchs (Middleburgh, N.Y.); juniors David J. Grey (Amherst, N.Y.) and Allison C. Russell (Rochester, N.Y.); and graduate student Kevin L. Haskins (Blossvale, N.Y.). Clarkson Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Jubum Kim is the team’s faculty advisor.

In the initial phase of the project, the Clarkson team was challenged to design a beam that meets a set of criteria.  The team was allowed to use only commercially available materials and the section size could be no more than seven inches wide and 14 inches deep.  The students had to predict, before testing, the load when concrete starts to crack, the maximum load that the beam can carry before it breaks, and the deflection at maximum load.

Upon consultation with PCI producer member, Jefferson Concrete in Watertown, N.Y., the design was finalized.  The beam was cast at Jefferson’s facilities and delivered to Clarkson last week for testing.

“Working on the PCI Big Beam team has really given me a chance to experience firsthand all the phases of a project like this,” said Scott Butler. “We had to apply what we have learned in the classroom and develop our budgeting, time management, and communication skills. It has been a great learning experience.”

Clarkson’s PCI Big Beam team is part of the University's SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program, which promotes multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduates annually. SPEED projects involve engineering design and analysis, fabrication, and the enhancement of professional competencies such as budget management, effective teamwork, and communication skills.

The SPEED program is one of the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering hallmark initiatives promoting the “Vision of a Clarkson Education” through experiential learning by hands-on application of academic theory to real-world problems. SPEED receives its primary financial support from Alcoa, Corning, Eastman Kodak, the General Electric Fund, and Procter & Gamble and was recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award and the 2002 Corporate and Foundation Alliance Award for its exceptional contributions to improving undergraduate engineering education.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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