UBC Seismic wins bronze at international competition

UBC Seismic

The UBC Seismic Design Team has placed third out of 51 teams and won the Egov Popov Structural Innovation Award at this year's Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition (SDC).

It was not only the team’s best performance at the SDC, but also the best result that a Canadian university has ever achieved at the annual event, which took place this month in San Diego, California.

“Representing UBC at the competition was an amazing experience,” says Melissa Luo, the captain of UBC Seismic and a civil engineering student at UBC. “It was great to meet and learn from people from around the world — especially those who are as passionate about earthquake engineering as we are! — and we’re really happy with the way everything turned out.” 


The SDC challenges students to design and build a balsa wood model of high-rise building that is both architecturally appealing and capable of withstanding up to a 9.0-magnitude earthquake.

Each team is scored not only on their structure’s design and performance, but also on their oral and poster presentations, their project proposal and how accurately they predict their structure’s performance.

Luo and her teammates constructed a five-foot-tall balsa wood tower with an optimized lateral bracing design that successfully withstood even the most intense quakes it was subjected to at the competition.


But the team has since identified ways to potentially increase the accuracy of their performance predictions by adjusting their analysis model. They plan to work on these improvements over the coming year.

“To optimize and analyze our tower design, we ran it through many iterations in engineering software called SAP2000. And to ensure that the construction of our structure was as precise as possible, we laser-cut all our pieces and 3D-printed our floor and wall jigs,” says Luo. “The purpose of the team is ultimately to help students get exposure to seismic design knowledge and theory on a graduate level, which we’re not exposed to in our undergraduate courses.”

Hosted by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s Student Leadership Council, the SDC is held in conjunction with the National Earthquake Conference each year.