News and Press

A Whole Lotta Shakin Going On


Published April 27, 2012.

Photo: Alfred Campbell, Eduardo Vazquez, and  Rose Quail Presenting Their Tower

Alfred Campbell, Eduardo Vazquez, and Rose Quail Presenting Their Tower

Among the 27 schools, with 3 being international schools, competing to win the 9th Annual EERI SDC (Earthquake Engineering Research Institute Seismic Design Competition) was the Peter Kiewit Institute's Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction. The Durham School EERI team consisted of: Dr. Terri Norton (Organization Advisor), Alfred Campbell (President), Rose Quail (Treasurer), and Eduardo Vazquez (Secretary). We faced off with the other teams in an exciting and challenging competition that tested our knowledge and understanding of how earthquakes affect skyscrapers and other tall buildings. Though, Nebraska is not home to many exciting earthquakes, like the East and West Coast, learning about how earthquakes affect buildings, and how to better prepare a building against the possible effects of an earthquake is almost as important as creating the structure itself. To do this, the EERI Seismic Design Competition Board had each of the competing teams design and build a cost effective earthquake resistant building, using only balsa wood and glue, which they could then submit for the competition. To comply with the EERI Seismic Design Competition Rules the Durham School's team started out designing the 2012 tower by using a basic square core and then applying a 'Big X' to the outer surface of the square core on all four sides, first for some aesthetics. Then later the team learned that the Big Xs did transfer some of the building load and weight in SAP, a computer software program. The Big X became very important in our innovative tower design for the competition this year. Other school teams and EERI members were impressed with our tower, commenting: "I can't believe how great your tower looks" and "It looks like you could just build that building as it is now and the tower could be a part of a large city." Although, with the Architecture aesthetics, came a huge complication on how to build the tower in the time frame we were allotted. In the beginning our team spent only a few hours here and there, just enough to complete the required tasks, and then we had to gradually increase the amount of time we worked on the tower until we worked every day. A relatively large amount of time was put into the tower over the early mornings on the weekends, and during the week. To comply with the competition rules our tower did not exceed a height of 5' tall resulting in each floor being 2" tall, and the base did not exceed 15" x 15", in order to fit on the competition's Quanser Shake Table II system. In real world terms at a scale of 72:1, every floor would be 12' high, and the tower had around 30 floors, making a full sized building roughly 360' tall. Not only did the team succeed in building the tower but also in the transportation of the tower to Memphis, Tennessee for the Seismic Design Competition. We drove a pickup truck instead of shipping the model all the way to Memphis, TN. A 12 hour drive is a major feat after taking a test and driving all night with the tower in the truck bed. The tower was only being secured by bolts holding the base to the wood crate which was then wrapped in a tarp, and strapped down to the truck bed. Luckily, the tower had not sustained any damage during the trip to the competition, and was in prime condition to watch its competition topple. The competition's main events included a presentation, a poster session, a fundraising auction, and the actual shaking of the towers. From my personal experience, I think the presentation does not even come close to being as nerve racking and exciting as seeing your tower shaking to an earthquake after spending so much time on building the tower, and it breaking towards the end of the third earthquake. The fundraising auction was new this year at the competition and the profits went to the winning school of the competition and EERI. The EERI members and FEMA representatives were encouraged to bet which school would win the seismic design competition. Sue Evers, from Kansas City, Missouri, won the bid for our tower. I have to admit that with this learning experience comes an even greater challenge for a new tower to be designed and constructed for next year. Personally I think that next year will be twice as challenging, and equally exciting. Article by Rose Quail (AE Student)

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