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ISU Big Beam team to compete in National PCI Big Beam Competition, will hold final beam test on May 25

May 22, 2018

Photo of big concrete beam
 Photo of the concrete beam the ISU team constructed for the project. 

POCATELLO – Idaho State University Civil and Environmental Engineering students will hold the final destructive testing of their big concrete beam on May 25 at 9:30 a.m. in the Structural Laboratory at the Engineering Research Complex (ERC) on 1030 S. Second Ave. in Pocatello.

The students are competing in the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) Big Beam contest. It is the first time that ISU has entered the PCI competition.

The beam will be tested as a simply supported 20-foot span, with the overall length limited to 22 feet. The beam must not crack below 20,000 pounds of loading and must be designed to fail within the range of 32,000 to 39,000 pounds.

The PCI Big Beam team at ISU consists of graduate students Maximilian Casanova from Simi Valley, California, Christopher Clauson from Grand Forks, North Dakota, Karma Gurung from Nepal, undergraduate student Jared Cantrell from Mountain Home and graduate exchange scholar Henrik Karstens from Hamburg, Germany. Their faculty advisor is Mustafa Mashal, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. 

Mashal said ISU has had good collaboration with Idaho Transportation Department on research projects focused on precast/prestressed concrete bridges. This type of construction has been implemented in many bridges around Idaho. Some of ISU’s engineering graduates end up working for Idaho Transportation Department, designing concrete bridges.

“The PCI Big Beam Competition provides the students with technical and practical experience in the use of precast/prestressed concrete,” Mashal said. “It includes all stages of a technical project for a precast/prestressed concrete bridge beam. It includes concept design, analysis, detailed design, construction technology and experimental testing to verify the analysis/design process. It introduces the students to versatility that precast/prestressed concrete offers for construction of bridges, culverts, buildings and other type of structures.”

Beam testing will take place in ISU’s large-scale, unique testing facility, the Structural Laboratory (SLAB), which can produce force of up to 1.3 million pounds collectively, and can test specimens up to 38 feet in length, and 14 feet in height. This facility was opened for structural testing in October 2017. Several of the students involved in the PCI Big Beam Competition were the ones who participated in construction of this facility in summer 2017.

Beams will be judged on:

       • Design accuracy

  • Lowest cost
  • lowest weight
  • Largest measured deflection at maximum total applied load
  • Most accurate prediction of deflection, cracking load and failure load.
  • Report quality
  • Practicality, innovation, and conformance with code

The winning team will receive free travel, accommodations and registration for the 2019 PCI Convention and National Bridge Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Prizes will be awarded to the top 20 submissions. Prizes will also be awarded to students who have the best report, which should demonstrate learning and application of sound engineering judgement and to students who have the most entertaining and creative video. 

The ISU team is sponsored by Forterra Structural Precast in Salt Lake City, Utah for the 2018 PCI Big Beam Competition.