Saint Martin's at the Timber Truss Competition

"We all picked up a hammer and pounded the nails together. Our teamwork made us highly time-efficient."

Ryan Egolf
Civil Engineering Class of 2017

Equipped with timber, screws and anchors, two teams of Saint Martin’s civil engineering students set out to accomplish a challenging task: construct a structure of wooden frames known as a truss.

Saint Martin’s competed for the first time in the Structural Engineers Association of Washington’s (SEAW) Timber Truss Competition on November 14, 2015. Through working as a team and thinking on their feet, one of the Saint Martin’s teams won first place, beating teams from the University of Washington and Seattle University.

The Timber Truss Competition consists of two parts: (1) building, predicting and testing a wooden truss to the breaking point at the University of Washington’s structural laboratories and (2) presenting the results to professionals at the SEAW annual dinner on January 26.  It’s a chance for civil engineering students in Washington state to apply skills learned in class, network with students and professionals, and have some friendly competition.

“The SEAW Timber Design competition is a good opportunity to get some real hands on experience with wood products and to test their capabilities,” says Ryan Egolf ’17, a civil engineering major and captain of one of the Saint Martin’s teams. “Students get the chance to use what they have learned in the classroom and try to apply it in a creative, fun way.”

“I wanted the opportunity to network with professional engineers, plus engage in some friendly competition,” says Nathaniel Gazaway ’17, a civil engineering major and captain of the winning Saint Martin’s team.

To prepare for the competition, Gazaway and Egolf met with their teams to discuss potential truss designs that would produce the best results. However, there was limited preparation the students could undertake, since the details of the truss were provided the day of the competition. Much of the competition would test students’ ability to complete a project with limited time and resources, think on their feet and work as a team.

“We all picked up a hammer and pounded the nails together,” recalls Egolf. “Our teamwork made us highly time-efficient. Everyone on the team could see what needed to be done and stepped up to the plate to take on any task. I am very proud of everyone on my team.”

When Gazaway learned that his team had won first place, which included a $1,200 cash prize, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the funds. "I saw it as a great chance to make some money for the ASCE club," he says. “We voted as a team on what to do with the funds made from the competition." The vote was unanimous—the money would be donated to the University’s student chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers for the upcoming Steel Bridge Competition.

“I can’t say enough about how well our students worked together,” says Jill Walsh, faculty advisor and assistant professor of civil engineering. “They were a great representation of the excellence of Saint Martin’s engineering students.”

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