Building Science Students Compete in Concrete Beam Competition
Building science students got the opportunity to put their classroom concepts and knowledge to the test during the “On the Beam” Construction Competition on March 18 at The McWhorter School of Building Science field lab.
Students were assigned the challenge of coming up with their own design for a concrete beam that had to fulfill multiple criteria.
According to the Field Lab Manager Mike Hosey, the 12 foot-long beam had to support five team members standing on top of if for a continuous minute.
“It had to be stable enough that when we set the beam up on two points, it didn’t roll or flex,” Hosey said. “The beam had to weigh under 300 pounds. We also measured the deflection, so we set the beam up and measured the top of the beam to the ground. Then we loaded it up and watched to see if it deflected or bent.”
The students weren’t graded only how well their beam performed in the competition. They also were assessed on whether they met the criteria, and their planning and preparation showed in the field lab.
“It’s always fun to make it competitive but in order to make the beam meet the weight criteria the students had to create some kind of void in the concrete,” Hosey said. “So they had to come up with a plan.”
Some teams plans included forming their beam to make it like an I-beam and some teams put a piece of PVC in it that’s hollow so it wouldn’t be solid concrete. Then teams had to use reinforcement at the right place to make sure that the beam didn’t break easily.
“They had to weigh themselves and then find out what the weight was going to be to show what it was going to have to support,” Hosey said. “Then they did a structural analysis of their design in order to make sure that it would work.”
According to Hosey, there were some challenges that students had to overcome during the competition. Their biggest obstacle involved the weight criteria and making sure that the beam would hold five team members.
“After designing your beam to reduce the weight and making sure you placed the reinforcement in the right place,” Hosey said. “Then you had to form it and had to mix your own concrete with sand, gravel and cement. There were a lot of factors in it, like designing your concrete and pouring it while making sure the slump or the amount of water in it was correct.”
Even though some teams experienced more challenges than others, the students enjoyed designing and competing in this competition.
“It was a lot of fun,” Hosey said. “They lined them all up six in a row, and they went one after another. We had nine people on some of the heavier beams‒as many people as we could put on it‒jumping up and down on it, and we still couldn’t make it fail.”