Pacific civil engineering students compete in 2013 Mid-Pac competition

Pacific civil engineering students last week won first place overall during the 2013 Mid-Pacific Civil Engineering Competition. Here students are working on the GeoChallenge competition. (Photo by Deanne Zhao)

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Pacific Wins the 2013 Mid-Pacific Civil Engineering Competition at San Jose State

Apr 24, 2013

Pacific's civil engineering students last week built more than roads, bridges and buildings. They built a reputation for winning at the 2013 Mid-Pacific Civil Engineering Competition.

Students won first place in the GeoChallenge, first place in Mini Games, and second place in the Water Treatment competition on their way to a first place overall prize. Pacific beat out University of California, Davis, for the overall prize by a point and University of California, Berkeley by five points.

"It is noteworthy that we can compete against top tier schools, such as UC Berkeley and Tongji (University in Beijing), one of the most prestigious universities in China," said Scott Merry, an engineering professor and the American Society of Civil Engineers Student Chapter adviser. "This obviously speaks well to the quality of our program - not only the students, but the faculty, staff and facilities."

Pacific was represented by 46 undergraduate students, five faculty members, and eight alumni at the April 18-20 competition hosted by San Jose State University and Santa Clara University.

"The activities are part of the American Society of Civil Engineers Mid-Pac conference and link the concepts learned in the classroom to design and fabrication of practical, yet competitive models that represent real-world engineering systems," said Merry. "The competitions emphasize lessons in teamwork, communication, and risk and reliability of systems." 

There are 12 other universities in the Mid-Pac Conference beside Pacific and the host universities, including University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Davis, Stanford University in the United States; and Tongji University, Tsinghua University, and Hong Kong University.

Merry said that students received trophies for the victories "and - mostly importantly - bragging rights. Also, schools placing in the top one or two (in three of the competitions) get the opportunity to represent our region at the national championships, where students can collect additional trophies and bragging rights."

Pacific engineering students took third place overall in 2011 and again the following year, so the team was motivated to take the top prize this year, Merry said.

The GeoChallenge entailed building a simulated mechanically stabilized earth wall that is then subjected to a series of static and dynamic loads, said Merry. There is a national championship on the line, said Merry, and the Pacific team is striving to attend the February competition in Atlanta.

Pacific engineering students made a strong showing against the field of 12 teams competing in the Water Treatment challenge. The goal was to come up with a plan to treat local wastewater after a large flood has damaged the treatment facility. The system has to be designed to make the water clean enough that it could be discharged into Monterey Bay. In the subcategories, Pacific students earned first place in Design Paper, fifth place in Technical Presentation, third place in Filter Loading, and fourth place in Water Quality Testing.

"We cleaned up" said Merry of the MiniGames, a series of games from tug-o-war and volleyball to concrete bowling and ultimate Frisbee. "We won everything except the watermelon eating contest (second place). This led to a lot of points, but it isn't the entire reason we won. Our students performed well in all the competitions they entered."

The 2014 Mid-Pac conference will be held at California State University, Fresno and will be co-hosted by Pacific.