Archives: Monthly Archives: April 2023

UConn Team Wins CIM-LRD Design/Construction Student Competition

April 28, 2023

On Saturday, April 22, a team of UConn students competed in the annual CIM-LRD Student Competition in Heavy Civil Infrastructure Design/Construction, where they won first place in designing and proposing a western extension of the MBTA Blue Line subway in Boston.

"My team and I worked on the Blue Line Extension Project which involved the design of two new subways stations consisting with platforms, stairs elevators, hallways and much more," team leader Flynn Iesu said in an e-mail interview. "The game plan was to design a one plate-form station for both location at Dartmouth/Newbury intersection and Park Street. All other factors had to fit the constraint of a one platform station."

Iesu and his colleagues revolved their choices around economical and fast approaches for the construction of this extension, with each member being tasked with 15 percent of the design plans. Team members Kevin Coen, Zachary Silvay and Eric Kozikowski helped with the designs, while Jonathan Garcia and Grace Webb worked on the scheduling, cost estimation, and geotechnical aspects. Iesu credits team mentors Jake Corbett, Randall States and David Jacobs for providing wisdom.

"It was a group effort in making the construction process which I then animated in sketchup to showcase the whole construction process for the competition," Iesu said. "After finishing all of the potentially deliverables, my team and I crafted up a elite presentation which we practiced in the weeks approaching the competition. Our mentors Jake, Randy and David gave us tips and wisdom throughout the whole year which helped nudge our team in the right direction."

On how his team members contributed, Iesu said, "Jake was a professorial architect who helped me a lot with small informational nuance’s such as the standards of dimensions used in the industry for stairs, hallways, and many other dimension requirements. This was a huge influences in a lot of the dimensions used for both of the stations. Randy was a geotechnical engineer who we consulted on our ideas for methods dealing with excavation and support of excavations. Lastly, David, who was a structural engineer, helped us with finalising our calculation for choosing and designing loads for beams and reformed concrete."

"I would like to thank Jake, Randy and David because without their support, my team and I wouldn’t have never won the competition. They acted like the foundation that allowed our team to flourish in creativity and they help relieve the stress of the project by supporting us. In every meeting that we had David and Randy emphasised 'to make a decision and just run with it.' We had to be confident in what we decided and base our process on whatever we chose. We couldn’t second guess ourselves and wonder if one method was better than another. This was important because it allowed for us to go and just work on the project."

"We did make slight changes here and there but overall our decision remained constant throughout the whole project. Things such as surry walls for support of excavation, beam dimensions, the use of metal decking to eliminate columns, logistics of where to put the surface entrances and elevator, and much much more," Iesu said.

When asked how his time at UConn impacted him, Iesu answered, "My time at UConn has been one of resilience. Just like our basketball team which has had its up and downs, I have also have had some as well. There has been good and bad times, however I have overcame my challenges and conquered my major. With this, I have similarities to our basketball team as we both overcame the challenges and exceed expectations to become winners."

Steel Bridge Design Club Takes Home the Hardware

April 27, 2023

On April 23, the UConn Steel Bridge Design Club competed in the Northeast Regional Steel Bridge competition, where they had a clean sweep victory against 12 other teams in all major categories.

The Steel Bridge Design Club is a structural engineering club that deals with designing a bridge based on the specifications provided by the AISC for the national competition each year, based on certain specifications, such as meeting a height and length requirement.

"To name a few [specifications], there is a certain height that span needs to clear off the ground, the height and width of each member cannot exceed certain measurements, the length of the bridge that is required, where the posts need to be placed, and a bunch of others," Steel Bridge Design Club President Matthew Jewell said in an e-mail interview. "Then, we basically strategize a bridge that will help alleviate some of the harder rules, like this year there was a connection that needed to be in an area we cannot step in so the design was to make that connection easier. After that comes the basis of the design, so we chose a 3D space-truss since its aesthetic and can handle loading with a bottom chord."

On facing the challenges posed by this competition, Jewell said, "The challenges of this club really came down to putting a lot of man-hours in for fabrication, but our advisors and helper Tom were motivated to help us get this bridge done. Fabrication all started with prepping all the connection plates and taking apart some of the members from last year's bridge. Once all the prep work was finished, then the actual fabrication was simply put together with an assembled jig. The jig is what positioned each piece so that they resembled what they would eventually look like, and then the rest was welding and grinding so that the members were together at the correct dimension. It took a lot of time, but was not necessarily challenging. Testing was just stacking the 50 pound steel bars we have in the shop until it amounted to 2500lb in the worst loading case (mid-span), and doing that test helped the steel harden so it could perform better in the actual competition."

"The competition was definitely long," Jewell said. "The aesthetics judging started at 7AM, so the bridge needed to be assembled then. For us, we were fifth in line for the actual construction speed portion. Overall, we had a solid run with a 13:41 build time and only two drops. Our advisor was very impressed. We then brought the bridge over to the weigh station where it weighed around 250 lbs, and easily passed the deflection. The total deflection was about 1.4" over mid-span and .7" at the end span, amounting to 2.1" aggregate deflection. At the end, we were awarded first place for both construction speed and least deflection."

Competing members of the club included Jewell, John Santangelo, Kelly Voong, and Yuanlong Dai. They all shared the same role of building the bridge.

"This year the club did run a bit differently with Lexi's senior design team helping model the bridge into software, but the E-Board and I helped keep the club running. John, Yuanlong, and I were all E-board members while Kelly was actually part of the senior design team, so we all did different things before we became part of the build team," Jewell said.

This year's bridge was 23 feet long, weighs 240 pounds and can support a 2500 pound load with 1 inch of deflection, according to Steel Bridge Design Club Advisor Michael Culmo. This bridge won all major categories in the event, including:

  1. Construction Speed
  2. Least Weight
  3. Stiffness
  4. Economy
  5. Structural Efficiency
  6. Overall Performance

The team now qualifies for the National Finals in San Diego in June, along with the top 50 teams in the country.

"[I] would definitely like to thank our advisors Mike Culmo and Lexi, as well as Tom Sawtelle who works with Mike at the CHA Companies. Mike has helped keep this club alive since the year 2000 and we are lucky to have such a knowledgeable professional be with us throughout the whole process. Tom also guided us in numerous occasions in welding tutorials and other shop practices, and we definitely wouldn't have done it without him."

The Steel Bridge Design Club posts regular updates on Facebook, and you can shoot them a follow on their Instagram account.

New Center on Soil Research Addresses Industry Needs for Reliable Sensors

April 17, 2023

A group of UConn researchers from the School of Engineering and the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources have recently established an industry-driven center for advanced soil science research as part of a collaborative SoilTech IUCRC Center project led by the University of Southern California.

The following text is from UConn Today:

"The UConn team includes Baikun Li, professor of civil and environmental engineering; Yu Lei, professor of chemical and biomedical engineering; Maria Chrysochoou, professor and department head of civil and environmental engineering; Haiying Tao, assistant professor of soil nutrient management and soil health; Sydney Everhart, associate professor and department head of plant science and landscape architecture; and Matthew Stuber, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

One of the defining aspects of the newly established Center for Soil Technologies (SoilTech) is that it will be driven by industry need through industry investment. After working to recruit industry partners over the past two years, the Center will now begin working on its first set of applied research questions."

The Center has already begun to make vital developments to address emerging soil health problems and urban farming in Connecticut.

"One of UConn’s chief contributions to this effort is the soil sensors developed by Li and Lei.

While there have been great advancements in sensor technology for biomedical applications and measuring water parameters in recent years, these sensors don’t work well when applied to soil.

'Normally, the reason a sensor that works well in the water does not work well in soil is because the soil is dry,' Li explains. 'And the ion contaminants that we target can’t migrate to the sensor.'

This makes it difficult for scientists to collect real-time soil measurements as they usually need to transport samples to a lab for analysis.

No one had been able to design an effective and affordable sensor for soil until Li created a sensor encased in hydrogel. The hydrogel effectively absorbs water from the soil, even when it is very dry. This allows the ions of interest, in this case nitrate and ammonium to move to the sensor so the sensor can collect an accurate reading."

Learn more at SoilTech, or read the full article on UConn Today.

CEE Professor Featured on Vox

March 30, 2023

Our own Dr. Arash E. Zaghi was featured on a video by Vox discussing the misconceptions surrounding dyslexia, dispelling the stigma surrounding it as purely a "deficiency" and analyzing the strengths and advantages unique to neurodiverse individuals. As Dr. Zaghi says, "It doesn't make me superhuman... It's just how my brain structure is."

Dr. Zaghi was also recently inducted into the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering as one of eleven inductees from UConn. The following text is from UConn Today:

“As UConn’s academic and innovative influence grows, so does our faculty membership in CASE. That’s not a coincidence,” says Pamir Alpay, a CASE member and UConn’s interim vice president for research, innovation, and entrepreneurship. “UConn and UConn Health research forms Connecticut’s scientific and engineering backbone and it’s an honor to see our faculty recognized for their brilliance and accomplishments.”

Check out the full video on YouTube below:

Dr. Arash Zaghi pictured above.