By Peter Murphy
Published April 7, 2020
An entry that was dedicated to a UB student recovering from an accident finished near the top of an international engineering design competition.
“Hannah Heights,” named after civil engineering student Hannah Bocker and designed by UB’s seismic design club as “an emblem of a magnificent gem,” finished 13th out of the 46 entries from colleges and universities from around the world that competed in the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s (EERI) Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition.
After Bocker, who participated on the UB team at last year’s competition, was critically injured in an accident in her hometown, student members of UB’s American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) club, including the seismic design team, started a few different initiatives to honor her.
Among the efforts was a card-signing event organized by UB ASCE early in the fall semester to encourage people to support the Bocker family by donating to an online fundraiser organized by a family friend. John Foley, a civil engineering senior and co-project manager of the UB seismic design team, says this type of encouragement meant a lot to Bocker.
“All the cards, gifts, messages and support she’s been receiving have been helping her get through this difficult time,” Foley says, “I messaged her directly and she responded expressing her gratitude. She was honored that we named the tower after her.”
For this year’s EERI Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition, which was held in early March in San Diego, teams had to design scale models of towers for the host city using basal wood and steel rods and plates. UB’s team utilized some of the seismic technology exclusive to Ketter Hall in order to prepare for the competition.
“We built a full-scale, 5-foot-tall prototype tower and bolted it down to a small shake table in UB’s earthquake lab,” says Long Nguyen, a civil engineering senior and co-project manager. “We could not test our tower using the ground motions provided by the competition board, but we were able to replicate the Kobe earthquake that hit Japan in 1995.”
The team scaled up the Kobe earthquake’s ground motions to get similar accelerations to those expected in San Diego. After testing the basal wood structure, students added steel rods and plates every two floors to add mass and make the building more realistic.
UB’s team out-performed other teams in some key metrics. “Our tower was judged prior to the shake and after to see whether it had any rule violations. Every year, there are usually a few violations found, but we are proud to tell you that we had zero violations,” Nguyen says. “This year’s ground motion had two peaks and devastated most teams, but our tower stood firm without any difficulties.”
Although Bocker could not participate this year, the team’s leaders say her presence was felt throughout the preparation and practice, and during the competition.
“Hannah was a part of the team last year, and oversaw our proposal, poster and presentation. She never failed to deliver and she was an absolute joy to be around,” Foley says. “We expected Hannah to be an active member this year, but unfortunately she suffered through a horrific accident.
“We know that if she could have been here with us, all of her strength would have gone into it as well.”