A win for North Dakota State engineers

Four students take home gold in Winnipeg competition

The engineering team (from left to right: Nicholas Attigah, Asif Arshid, Coltyn Nelson and Keshab Thapa) after their victory.

Over spring break, four students from the civil engineering department competed and won the Regional GeoWall 2019 Competition in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

Asif Arshid, an NDSU grad student and team captain, led the team that won first place overall and first place for the design report they created.

The team was also made up of graduate student Keshab Thapa and undergraduate students Coltyn Nelson and Nicholas Attigah. Molly Berdan and Eugene Slagstad also helped the team out, but were unable to make the competition. Arshid also made sure to mention Beena Ajmera, a faculty advisor for civil and environmental engineering, who helped prepare the team before they went to competition. 

One of the main goals in the competition was to create a wall that had the least amount of reinforcement weight to support. Every gram was worth 20 points. Their retaining wall used only 3.76 grams of paper for their reinforcement stirrups, while the next team’s lowest weight was 5.81 grams.

 “Our team was very passionate, very excited, very coordinated and were competing from their hearts,” Arshid said. “Others at the competition were appreciating this as well. One of the organizers came to me and said if there was a prize for team coordination or team spirit, our team would have won that as well.”

Arshid said he started to prepare for the competition and form his team as soon as he knew about it in October. His team completed preparations in December and started to practice for the competition in January until the day of the competition. He noted how hard it was to find people he could recruit to be a part of the competition. Arshid said he was only able to recruit three others to make up their team of four, even though teams could have up to five members.

He recruited Attigah 10 days before they had to compete, so the four of them got to only practice together two times. Despite the difficulty of recruiting people, Arshid said his team made sure to go to the competition fully prepared, having five revisions of their design report from their faculty advisor who gave them plenty of feedback.

Though the team has made it to the national competition, they will not be able to attend. Arshid and his fellow team members are all graduating and won’t be able to compete at the national competition, which will be held later this month. “We don’t have time to prepare for it,” Arshid stated. “We strongly wish that we could participate in nationals.” If his team were to go to nationals, Arshid said he could see them placing within the top three teams because of their score at the regional competition. 

Our team was very passionate, very excited, very coordinated and were competing from their hearts

Asif Arshid

Because the team members are all graduating sometime soon, Arshid said he also doesn’t know whether or not a team from NDSU’s civil engineering department will continue to participate in GeoWall competitions. “We have documented everything in pictures and records, so everything from this competition is maintained,” Arshid said. “If someone does decide to come and take our place, they’ll be able use what we left behind.”

Arshid said he sees his teams win by encouraging students to take initiatives and have the potential to do what they set their minds to. “They have the support system, and when students see those initiatives, they will be able to complete a lot more,” he said. “I see a lasting impact on the current and future students from our win.”

The competition’s purpose is to help students learn the basics of a “geowall,” which is an industrial product used in engineering and is often found along the sides of bridges. While the teams were competing, they acquired knowledge of civil engineering and got to work in a team environment using leadership skills while perfecting technical details. 

There were six other teams competing, one less than planned because South Dakota State’s team couldn’t make it due to weather conditions. Each college could have two teams compete. There could only be two graduate students per team. 

Every team was tasked with constructing a retaining wall that was 18-inches high and had to fit within a wooden sandbox. The wall had to be made out of poster paper and craft paper with only tape holding it together. The wall needed to be able to hold a bucket full of 60 pounds of sand, which was placed on top of the wall close to the edge. The wall also needed to withstand 600 more pounds of sand being piled on top. 

Within the competition, there were three stages. Each stage was timed, making the teams focus on using their time wisely and quick thinking. The first stage had a time limit of 15 minutes for the teams to cut four stirrups out of thin strips of paper. The main factor that determined how sturdy their retaining wall was these reinforcing stirrups they had to construct.  

The next round was 20 minutes long and was the preparation of the front wall that was made out of poster paper. They had two pieces of poster paper, which they had to cut down to the correct length, and they then taped the two pieces together to make one wall. The stirrups were then cut into pieces and taped at certain locations on the wall for support. 

After stage two, each team had 20 minutes to put their project into a sandbox where they had to compact the sand in layers. Then the 60-pound bucket of sand was placed on the edge of their structure and more sand was added to see if it could withstand more weight. 

Teams were given penalties if the structure moved at all under the pressure of the weight, if their retaining wall fell apart under the weight and if they exceeded the time limits.

The teams were judged on the time limits they had and the design report, which was worth 50 points. 

Arshid’s team was funded by many departments. They received $250 from the College of Engineering, $700 from the NDSU Graduate School and they were given 600 pounds of sand and $100 from the Braun Intertec Corporation in West Fargo.

After this competition, Arshid said he feels as though he has become more confident and has improved his skills for the future. Though Arshid’s team will not be competing in nationals, they are still proud of their hard work and dedication that got them the first-place win at regionals.

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