UMKC Steel Bridge Team Soars at Nationals!

The UMKC Steel Bridge Team received 2nd place in 1 of 6 subcategories and placed 33rd out of 43 teams at the 2017 National Student Steel Bridge Competition! Team members Jon Daldalian and Evan Jones shared more about their experience at the competition.

Congratulations on your victories at Nationals! Tell us more about your experience there.

Jon: Our team tied for 1st place in the stiffness category at this year’s National Student Steel Bridge Competition (NSSBC). We were awarded second place after losing the tiebreaker to Tongji University from Shanghai, China. I don’t have the words to describe what it feels like to place at the national competition. Our team had a running joke throughout the year regarding placing in a national category because it seemed like such a far fetched goal. Ultimately, the attention to detail and quality of the team’s design and fabrication made the difference. This award makes all the sleepless nights and early mornings well worth the sacrifice.

Evan: Nationals was what the entire team had worked tirelessly towards the entire year and being able to participate was an opportunity of a lifetime. The competition pulled 43 teams from a pool of 251 different universities who competed at regional levels. Given such a large filter, to be able to even participate at the national tournament was a huge honor for the team, and to leave with some hardware was an even bigger one.

What have you learned from this experience?

Jon: This experience has taught me to never sell myself or my team short. Although our team wasn’t the largest and our fabrication equipment wasn’t the fanciest, we were able to create a simple well-built bridge that was stiffer than any of the top engineering programs throughout the world. No matter the odds, it only takes hard work and dedication to compete among the best.

Evan: I learned that how you build something is just as important as the design itself. Steel Bridge is unique because it forces our team to not only come up with a design, but to also be able to build it ourselves and then load test it at competition to prove its design. The activity constantly forced me to ask “How can this design be implemented?” “Is a less efficient design better if it can constructed easily?” This type of first hand design (and build) experience is something that is immensely important for young engineers to have.

What does receiving this award mean to you and your team?

Jon: UMKC has such a rich and successful history participating in the Steel Bridge competition. Receiving these awards at the regional and national competitions makes us feel proud to count ourselves among the many great engineers who came before us. More than anything, it felt amazing to listen as the announcers read the University of Missouri – Kansas City aloud for all the competitors to hear. Our hope is that these awards can once again solidify UMKC’s dominance in our future conferences and national appearances.

Evan: Hearing “University of Missouri-Kansas City” announced at nationals was what the team needed to prove that we still can go toe-to-toe with any school in the nation, and we’re excited to prove that again next year.

What do you have planned next year for Steel Bridge?

Jon: For the upcoming 2017-2018 Steel Bridge team, we plan to focus on growing our younger member involvement. Our current team captain, Mario Gutierrez, was a freshman throughout last year’s competition. The returning graduate students plan to teach Mario, and all other underclassmen, everything we can about the process of designing and fabricating a steel bridge within the rules. Once again, our main goal is to make UMKC a strong Steel Bridge contender within the regional and national competitions.

Evan: The primary focus will be growing the team. With key team members returning and underclassman already taking on leadership roles for the next year, we hope to ensure that this past year was not a one-off year, but rather the revival of a nationally competitive team. While the rules do not come out until early August, the team is modeling designs for bridges based off of rules from many different years. Furthermore, using the few extra materials we do have from last year, the team is still practicing its fabrication skills. While we did place in one category, we still have a lot of hard work to do to close the gap in others, and we’re excited for the challenge.

Why do you think it’s important for students to get involved with teams and organizations like Steel Bridge?

Jon: Student organizations allow young engineers to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. Although faculty advisers provided useful input throughout the year, the bulk of decision making was done by student members. As a young engineer, these experiences are crucial because it necessitates initiative and teamwork among peers. These skills are arguably the most important for career advancement and learning them early can make all the difference.

Evan: It teaches students that engineering does not stop when something is drawn. It is one thing to design something, it is another to be able to design something that is easy to make, economical, and still safe.

Ryan Holmes Receives Prestigious ASCE Fellowship!

Recently, SCE Ph.D. student, Ryan Holmes, was awarded a prestigious American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Fellowship. Ryan took the time to share more about his fellowship, his interest in civil engineering, and why he decided to come to UMKC.

1.Congratulations on being awarded an ASCE Fellowship! Can you tell us more about it?

Thank you! The ASCE Freeman Fellowship is a national fellowship set up by one of ASCE’s past presidents, John R. Freeman, in 1924 to encourage future civil engineers working in hydraulics and hydraulic engineering. Hydraulic engineering is a subset of civil engineering dealing with water flow systems especially for the purpose of providing clean water. For my submission I described some of my work towards modeling flow through a unique filter system we are developing here at UMKC.

2.What first drew you to civil engineering?

I have wanted to be a civil engineer since middle school. I was drawn to civil engineering because it provides the best of two worlds, creative inventiveness and practical application. Lots of people have great ideas but lack the understanding of the systems to build them. Alternatively, others know the places where improvements are needed but don’t have the time or energy to explore the innumerable, potential solutions. I want to interface between these two groups as having both the knowledge of available answers and the understanding of how those solutions can be implemented.

3. What have you learned from working with your mentor, Dr. Hart?

Dr. Hart has taught me that multifaceted knowledge base is the core of all civil engineers. Her expertise in soils, geochemistry, and hydrogeology has been an invaluable resource to me. She also has practical experience in environmental engineering. While I’m work towards developing a filter for purifying groundwater, she helps direct my inquisitiveness towards solving the practical side – the chemistry of clean water – and addressing the questions around implementation – how to explain this process to people in the Environmental Protection Agency or Department of Defense.

4.What made you decide to come to UMKC?

I decided to come to UMKC because I was born and raised in Kansas City. I wanted to go to a school that had a reputation for civil engineering and a community impact – so UMKC was a natural choice. There are UMKC graduates at almost every engineering firm in the city and at most construction, concrete, or mining facilities. I think this is not just a reflection on the quality of civil engineers UMKC produces, but the way the program is structured to integrate future engineers with the existing local experts.

5.What advice would you give to undergraduate engineering students?

My advice for undergraduates is firstly to cultivate relationships with the people in your classes and in your internships. These will be the people you will go to for help or job placement in the future. Secondly, keep leaning in to learning everything you can, but be humble enough to admit you don’t know everything.

Visiting Student Benoît de Patoul Is Mapping a Better Future.

Our blogger, Molly Gilstrap, recently interviewed a visiting student from Belgium about his research and time at UMKC.

Benoît de Patoul is working towards a master’s degree from the ECAM Brussels School of Engineering in Industrial Engineering. Read on to hear about his wildfire research and how the Midwest weather was something entirely new.

1. Tell us more about the research you have been working on!
The research is about mapping the vegetation loss on radar images after a wildfire. When I talk to people about the research, they often ask me the same question: “Why do you need to map that?” The answer: It allows us to save human lives. You are probably wondering why, right?

A heavy rain after a wildfire can result in breakouts of mudflow or debris flow, which can threaten residential communities and even kill people. Knowing where the burned areas are located is critical for agencies to prepare people for secondary hazards.

The idea of the algorithm is to take two radar images, one before and one after the fire. Using these two images, the algorithm will detect the changes and classify them. The image below shows some of our results. The red represents the burned areas, the black shows the changes in the urban area, the green shows the changes in the vegetation, and the blue represents areas with no change.

2. What peaked your interest in this project?
I have always wanted to conduct my research in the United States, so I started looking and asking around to see if someone could offer me the right opportunity. The first person to contact me was Dr. Chen at UMKC SCE. He offered me different subjects, but this particular one had a connection to NASA and image processing. I directly seized the opportunity, not only because it was related to NASA, but because it was going to be very challenging for me.

3. Did you come across any obstacles or challenges?
Yes, a lot of challenges and obstacles. First, there is a lot of theory I had to learn in a very short time. Second, I had to develop an algorithm to accomplish the objectives of the research. That’s very challenging because it’s a long process and as you develop the algorithm, you will always have obstacles that can take a lot of time to overcome.

4. How has your experience been as a visiting student?
I really loved this experience. Discovering a new culture is something completely unique. I would encourage anybody to try it! It a very enriching experience, I learned a lot about myself and I made a lot of good friends.

5. How have you liked living in Kansas City?
I was living near the Country Club Plaza on campus in the Oak Place apartments. Kansas City is a very beautiful city with very friendly people. I would certainly recommend it. The city has good public transportation and it is free for UMKC students. The weather can be kind of weird because it can radically change from one day to another, but you get used to it.

6. What are your future plans?
I’m completing my master’s degree this year. I really like to learn new things and I’ve been accepted to do another master’s degree in Technology Management at University College London. It is not an easy task to be accepted, but I think what really helped me was choosing to do my research abroad, especially in United States.