UBC Civil Engineering student team wins first place at 2021 EERI Seismic Design Competition

After working virtually on their design over the past year, UBC Civil Engineering student team UBC Seismic placed first in the 2021 Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition.

The competition, organized by the EERI Student Leadership Council (SLC), annually brings together students from over 50 universities across the globe. The goal is to create a balsa wood structure, which is tested on a shake table that produces up to magnitude 9.0 earthquakes.

For the 2020-2021 school year, UBC Seismic was comprised of 26 undergraduate students, with 22 from Civil Engineering and the rest representing Land and Food Systems, Materials Engineering, Integrated Engineering, and Environmental Engineering.

UBC Seismic’s goal is to promote the study of structural and earthquake engineering through opportunities to work on architecture, construction and design. Participating in the team also provides leadership development opportunities and experience working with industry software such as SAP2000, AutoCAD and Revit.

Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the competition shifted to being hosted virtually, which also resulted in a format change that saw participants produce written deliverables. This change especially challenged the team to research new areas in geotechnical, structural, architectural, and retrofitting concepts.

Pre-pandemic, the team would meet in-person every Saturday and build two towers out of balsa wood to prepare for the competition. Instead, all meetings and work over the past year took place virtually.

“Having virtual meetings, new competition rules and objectives with different expectations made the planning and participation difficult,” said Construction Co-Lead Carlson Lau (Civil, ‘21).

Yet, from these challenges the team learned important lessons and valuable workarounds.

“We found that recording the meetings and training sessions were very helpful for onboarding new members,” said Co-Captain Kylie Ip (Civil, ‘22), “and we bonded as a team by having games nights and working on unique tasks different from previous years such as drafting drawings, planning construction schedules and targeting LEED BD+C Healthcare certification.”

“The team is grateful that the organizers put together a virtual competition, and while it had some similar elements to the in-person competition, it felt like an entirely new competition. For an in-person competition, constructability and construction quality can play a big role in how well a tower performs in addition to the design. This year, there was a greater emphasis on the technical aspects and report writing,” said Chupik.

UBC Seismic’s final entry included geotechnical, structural, architectural, and retrofitting deliverables for a scaled model of a Seattle hospital building, as well as completing an oral presentation, a poster, and a video.

The team had limited expenses this year due to everything going virtual and chose not to seek sponsorship. Still, they would like to acknowledge the generous contributions from Fluor and Pomerleau, and their existing network of industry sponsors. The team is especially grateful to Bush, Bohlman & Partners for sharing their insight during virtual Lunch and Learns that were hosted this year.

Ip and Chupik noted that since seismic design is not covered in undergraduate structural courses, participating in the design team and competition is a great way for eager students to learn more about earthquake engineering and get challenged to examine the implications of designing in seismic zones.

The Co-Captains are proud of their hardworking team and attribute a large part of their success to the dedication from the members.

A new member to the team, Eric Diehl (Environmental, ‘23) noted, “deciding to join UBC Seismic has been one of my best decisions in university so far. I got to practice a lot of useful programs like AutoCAD, learn a great deal from some very patient upper years, and get adopted into a tight-knit family whose alumni enjoy coming back to help and visit. Plus, now I get to say that my team are world champions, which doesn’t hurt!”

Looking to the future, Ip and Chupik are excited for the new leadership team and a return to in-person activities and competitions.

“We’re starting the transition to new leadership, and are planning to compete in the 2022 EERI competition in Salt Lake City, Utah! Our objective in the coming months is to begin recruitment and prepare for the new season,” Ip said.

If you are interested in joining or learning more about UBC Seismic, please visit them on the following platforms: FacebookInstagramLinkedInWebsite.