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NE Prestressed-guided Lehigh team takes PCI Big Beam Competition

Sources: Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute, Chicago; CP staff

Lehigh University Team 2 from Bethlehem, Pa., earned top honors, including a $2,000 cash prize, in the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute Engineering Student Design Competition, also known as the Big Beam Competition. Now in its 19th year, 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.

“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 Precast Products of Cressona, Pa.].”

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 analysis and reports plus project overview videos.

“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 member of the Big Beam-winning team.

“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. Other college and university teams named in the 2019 Big Beam Competition are posted here.