By Dave Elton
Eleven university teams competed in the 2008 GeoCongress student competition March 12 in New Orleans. The Louisiana State University (LSU) Tigers took top honors, topping twotime reigning champion University of Missouri–Columbia. The Drexel University GeoDragons took second-place honors. The Drexel team was coached by the immediate past-president of the North American Geosynthetics Society, Dr. Grace Hsuan. NAGS was a contributing sponsor for the annual event.
As winners, the LSU team took home the Atterberg Cup, presented at the Heroes Luncheon. The GeoInstitute judges praised the teams, the advisors, and the corporate sponsors for creating an exciting and useful competition. The teams were funded by corporate sponsors, the Geo-Institute, and their home universities.
The competition promoted geotechnical engineering and fostered teamwork in engineering design. Students prepared design papers and plans in advance, from which 11 teams were invited to GeoCongress- 2008 to compete. In New Orleans, they competed head-to-head to build a mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) retaining wall inside a plywood box, using sand as backfill, poster paper as the wall facing, and paper strips as soil reinforcement. The design goals are to satisfy MSE wall construction standards in a timely fashion and sustain a 23kg (50lbs) surcharge, while minimizing the amount of paper reinforcement. Points were awarded for the paper, the design, the speed of construction, and the wall performance. Details concerning rules for competition and judging are at www.ce.unlv.edu/egl/.
The competition was intense, according to observers. Of the 11 competitors, only the LSU team and the Drexel team entries were able to sustain the 50-lb surcharge without significant deformation. The contest was decided by the smaller amount of paper reinforcement used by LSU.
Corporate sponsors for the event were: Burns Cooley Dennis, Colbond, Fugro Consultants, Geosyntec, Golder Associates, Jean Louis and Janet Briaud, NAGS, Rockwood Retaining Walls, Tensar International Corp., and URS Corp. Corporate sponsorship assisted the students and faculty advisors to travel to the conference site.
Dr. Robert Gilbert, the University of Texas at Austin, headed the GeoInstitute student competition committee, which also included Mary Roth, Dave Elton, Barbara Luke, Andrew Heydinger, Frank Townsend, Trish Culligan, and Nazli Yesiller.
NAGS has supported all the Geo- Competitions as part of its education mandate. The 2007 competition was at the ASCE GeoCongress in Denver.