Students win at international earthquake safety design contest

09 Oct 2018

Four architecture undergraduate students from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University achieved excellent results at the annual Introducing and Demonstrating Earthquake Engineering Research in Schools earthquake engineering design competition in Taipei.

The IDEERS competition requires competing student teams to construct multi-floor model towers from a limited set of materials over the course of 6.5 hours.

The towers are then loaded with steel weights and subjected to increasing earthquake stresses on a large earthquake simulation shake table at Centre for Research on Earthquake Engineering facility.

Over 500 students representing ten countries from the Australasia region took part in the event, competing in teams of four in high school, undergraduate, and postgraduate categories. The team of XJTLU students won the Best Structure Design Prize and the Best Architecture Design Prize amongst 49 international teams competing in the undergraduate category.

Working according to a strict set of competition rules determining material and tool restrictions, four Year Two BEng Architecture students Qixuan Hu, Shuyu Ni, Lu Song and Haoning Zhang spent two months during the summer, designing, testing and improving their tower models.

Dr Christiane M. Herr from the Department of Architecture at XJTLU, who along with Professor Thomas Fischer supervised the students throughout the process, said that the students showed great persistence and team spirit.

“They not only produced a strong tower design, they also dealt confidently with various unpredictable challenges throughout the preparation and actual competition stages,” said Dr Herr.

Prior to the competition, the students tested their design in a simple but efficient way - the model was loaded with steel weights according to the competition regulations, tied to a trolley, and shaken by hand. Accelerations were measured by a mobile phone tied to the bottom of the trolley.

The students fine-tuned the structural performance of their tower model over the summer, producing 19 generations of models.

Student Haoning Zhang (pictured above, second from left) described the preparation time as a period of intense teamwork:

“Effective communication was key for the efficient operation of our team,” said Zhang. “We worked and learned together, always listening to others, rigorously analysing and discussing different design proposals.”

In addition to the Best Structure Design Prize and the Best Architecture Design Prize, the students received an Earthquake Resistance Certificate as their model only failed during a very high-intensity earthquake test.

“The shake table test was the most thrilling and memorable time of the competition,” said Qixuan Hu (pictured above, third from left). “We were all very excited and cheered our model on, and were incredibly proud when the prize winners were announced.”

Lu Song (second from left) commented: “Looking at a structural design competition from the viewpoint of an architect, we worked hard to integrate design elegance and engineering efficiency. For this reason, we were able to win both the structural design prize as well as the architectural design prize.”

Shuyu Ni (left) said: “We also experienced first-hand the challenges of communicating across disciplinary boundaries between architecture and civil engineering – and to find ways to overcome them.”

Dr Herr added that during the competition the students were wonderful ambassadors of XJTLU in an international context, and even performed a great dance routine during the international students’ banquet.

Story and photos provided by the Department of Architecture
Edited by Danny Abbasi

09 Oct 2018


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