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By Bryan Hay

Lafayette civil and environmental engineering students went head-to-head with graduate students in a spirited international competition dedicated to the latest geotechnical engineering techniques and came home winners in every entry.

“Overall, Lafayette was the highest-performing school in the GeoChallenge competition at the International Foundations Congress and Equipment Expo in Orlando, Fla.,” said Mike McGuire, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, who led the Lafayette contingent.

“Teams are selected to compete at the conference based on a design report that is reviewed by a panel of judges,” he said. “Only 16 teams from around the world are invited to compete.”

Lafayette students assemble a project in the Geotechnical Engineering Competition as a judge watches.Lafayette’s team took third place in the national GeoWall competition, where students are asked to design and build a retaining-wall model with kraft paper while using the least amount of facing and reinforcement material to support the soil.

The team developed a novel (yet legal) strategy to reduce the weight of paper used in its final design by about 20 percent compared to its earlier designs.

Competing in the GeoWall contest were seniors Dan Linkinhoker, Emily Maj, Matthew Baldino, and Kelly Hogan. Other GeoWall team members were seniors Laura Strang, Louis Papsdorf, Sasha Gorski, Bryan Sherrill, and Morgan Biddle.

“They determined a clever way to reduce the amount of paper used in noncritical areas, and it just blew me away,” McGuire said. “They’ve been working to develop and refine designs since October; a lot of hours went into this.”

It was the first time a Lafayette team competed in the national GeoWall competition, he said, adding that the College has competed twice at the regional level and won first place both times.

Lafayette also took second and third place in the GeoVideo competition, where students create three-minute educational videos about geotechnical engineering; second place in the GeoShirt competition to design the conference T-shirt; and first place in the GeoPoster competition where technical posters are submitted about a research project.

Lafayette students in the Geotechnical Engineering Competition talk strategy.

Senior Travis Shoemaker, who was also active on the GeoWall team, submitted his poster about the application of remote sensing to inspect riprap, a rock material used to protect slopes of dams from erosion.

“From competition judges to reviewers of technical papers, Travis has been impressing folks since he was a sophomore,” McGuire said. “It’s a big accomplishment for him.”

“This was a great showing by a Lafayette team that went up against the top students in geotechnical engineering from around the country and the world,” McGuire said. “I’m proud of everyone’s hard work.”

Other GeoWall competition facts:

  • Chris Nelsen ’16, a graduate student at University of Texas at Austin and one of McGuire’s former students, competed in GeoWall for UT and placed fifth.
  • Bill Kitch, author of the textbook used in the Introduction to Geotechnical Engineering course at Lafayette, judged Lafayette’s GeoWall.
  • Eric Backlund ’07, who manages the Mid-Atlantic Regional GeoWall Competition, was on hand to cheer on the Lafayette team.
  • Amy Cerato ’99, a professor at University of Oklahoma, served as master of ceremony of the GeoWall competition.
  • Mary Roth, head of Lafayette’s civil and environmental engineering department, was one of the GeoWall competition’s original developers back in the early 2000s.
Categorized in: Academic News, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Engineering, Featured News, News and Features