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Civil engineering student teams take first, second in national competitions

Friday, April 3, 2015

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Two University of Texas at Arlington civil engineering teams took first and second places, respectively, in American Society of Civil Engineers’ GeoInstitute’s national competitions that predicted soil impact on a foundation loads, and showed strength and stability in geo-wall design and construction.

Members of the two UT Arlington geo teams

Members of the two UT Arlington geo teams are from left: Jorge Jimenez, Manaf Refai, Santiago Caballero, Raju Acharya, Aritra Banerjee and Minh Tran.

The contests are considered the premier competition events at the national ASCE-GI conference, which was held in San Antonio this month.

Team adviser Anand Puppala, a distinguished teaching professor and associate dean for research for the College of Engineering, said wins in these competitions are important because a university can be elevated in the eyes of peer institutions.

“Getting the reputation that you can thrive in these extremely competitive environments with Tier One schools is important for our students to experience,” Puppala said. “It builds confidence and shows the other universities that we belong.”

UT Arlington’s two-member geo-prediction team won $1,000 for its first-place finish along with the coveted Mohr Circle Award trophy, while the four-member geo-wall team earned $1,000 for its second-place finish.

The geo-predicting event drew 10 finalist teams from various colleges and universities for a contest to determine the load information on foundations for two sets of soil profiles. The 20 geo-wall finalist teams invited from a pool of 38 teams built a small model of a retaining wall in a wooden box with sand as a backfill material reinforced with construction paper. Side walls of the model box were opened to see at what point it would collapse or move.

Puppala said the panel of judges that designs the competitions gives the student teams real-world problems to solve.

“These are highly creative problems that actually occur in real life, so solutions take real practice,” Puppala said.

Raju Acharya, a doctoral candidate, led the geo-prediction team, which included junior Minh Tran.

“What makes it difficult is there are so many variables that you have to account for in the team’s calculations,” Acharya said. “And they don’t tell us the strength of the soil profiles.”

Santiago Caballero, another doctoral candidate, served as captain of the geo-wall team.

The geo-wall competition is based on the weight of the construction paper as reinforcement of the model. He said the difference between second-place UT Arlington and the first-place team was four-tenths of a gram.

“We have 50 minutes to prepare the model in three different stages,” Caballero said. “We have to construct the retaining wall model within that time trying not to put the design at risk and assure it will stand during testing.”

Also on the geo-wall team were seniors Manaf Refai and Jorge Jimenez, and doctoral candidate Aritra Banerjee.

Puppala said UT Arlington was competing against some top-notch civil engineering teams.

“It is the premier competition event at the ASCE-GI conference,” Puppala said. “We are proud of our UTA team’s performance. I think we’ll win next year.”

About The University of Texas at Arlington

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