Press Release for Tuesday, August 6, 2013

UNF Engineering Teams Win Big Beam Student Design Awards

Media Contact: Joanna Norris, Associate Director

Department of Public Relations

(904) 620-2102


Two University of North Florida student civil engineering teams were recently selected as the regional winners of the 2013 Engineering Student Design Award, also known as the Big Beam Contest, by the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI). The teams also placed sixth in the national competition, coming home with a grand total of $1,750 in award monies, provided by the SIKA Corporation and PCI.


The objective of the Big Beam Contest, sponsored by PCI producers, is for student teams to design, fabricate and test a precast, pre-stressed concrete beam with the help of local precast concrete producer members. Prizes are awarded based on efficient design, design accuracy, most accurate prediction of maximum load capacity and other categories. The UNF team received $750 for winning first and second places in the regional competition and $1,000 for its sixth-place national win.


“This is the second year in a row our students have won this regional competition and placed very high nationally against some of the best engineering schools in the country,” said Dr. Mark Tumeo, dean of the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction at UNF. Our students and faculty continue to excel and demonstrate that UNF provides one of the best engineering programs in the country.”


The two winning teams were sponsored by Gate Precast. The first-place winning team included UNF graduate student George El-Gharib, team captain and beam designer. In addition, the team included recent graduates Kirk Philips, who helped in the design/testing and Hector Flores, who assisted in testing. The second-place winning team included recent graduate William Vaughn, team captain, as well as senior Douglas Rhatigan and graduate student Willard Casale.


“What a great experience taking a theoretical design and having it created to industry standards,” said Rhatigan. “It shows the connectivity of the University of North Florida to the real world.”


Dr. Adel ElSafty, UNF associate professor of civil engineering, served as the team’s faculty adviser. University alumni Tim Morgan and Sam Attallah assisted in beam set up and testing, while Tom Newton, Gate Precast’s vice president of operations, served as the team’s PCI producer. Additionally, Joe Lord, Florida Prestressed Concrete Association, sponsored UNF students’ reports and provided mentoring.


 In this year’s regional competition, UNF advanced over all the participating universities in the southeast region. Nationally, the UNF student engineering team is in league with Lehigh University (first place), the University of Texas-Austin (second), South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (third), the University of Notre Dame (fourth) and California State University, Sacramento (fifth). 

The Student Judging Committee selects first-place winners from each of the six PCI regional zones, along with international entries, competing for the overall championship. First-place teams in each zone are then entered into the national competition.


UNF’s School of Engineering offers both Bachelor of Science and graduate degrees in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. All of its programs are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.