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Civil Engineering Students Win National Seismic Design Contest

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L to R: Benjamin Wong, Norman Chak, Seema Barua, Marshall Lew (UCLA alumnus, AMEC), Jane Zhu, Jennifer Huynh, Maxwell Armenta (back), Andy Luu, and Emily Yagi.

By Bill Kisliuk | February 27, 2013

Unshaken by three dozen rival teams, earlier this month, a group of UCLA civil engineering students took first place in the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s 10th annual Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition. It is the second straight year a team from the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science has won the award.

In the contest, teams designed and built a model of a skyscraper that could survive a temblor with minimal financial damage. The competition took place in Seattle, and teams had to offer a replacement for the Space Needle as the city’s signature building.

Captain Emily Yagi and her fellow students designed a tower that survived shake tests and won the top prize under criteria that also included architecture and presentation. Yagi consulted with civil and environmental engineering associate professor Jian Zhang on the project, and relied on teammates Norman Chak and Seema Barua for key logistical support. Yagi also was on the winning team captained by Jennifer Huynh in Memphis in 2012. Both Huynh and Yagi are seniors.

seismic-design-tower-200.jpg Yagi said the biggest challenge for her team was constructing the intricate model made of balsa wood and glue. “It took a month of working five days a week, two hours a day,” she said.

In addition to Barua, Chak, Huynh and Yagi, the 2013 team included: Anthony Ambrosio-Meir, Maxwell Armenta, Winston Boyce, Dennis Cha, Sam Cummings, Bill Faught, Victoria Lam, Paul Lee, Andy Luu, Steven Tindula, Benjamin Wong, Mary Xue and Jane Zhu.

In addition to Professor Zhang, the team relied on the support or assistance of students, staff, alumni and outside firms, including: Harold Kasper of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department; graduate students Wang Xi and Benjamin Wong; UCLA Engineering alumni Robert Lyons and Xiaomi Gong from the civil engineering firm Brandow & Johnston; UCLA Engineering alumnus Marshall Lew, of the engineering firm AMEC; the UCLA American Society of Civil Engineers; the UCLA Engineering Alumni Association; the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association Council, geotechnical consulting firm Shannon & Wilson, and Specialized Balsa Wood.