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First-year engineering students win big at Geodesic Dome Competition


Students hold the structure and the award.

Beilee Kagen and Katrina Santos show off their winning dome at the Geodesic Dome Design Competition at the Materials Science and Technology Conference.

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November 21, 2018

Conferences are the place to network and learn and — for a team of first-year Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students — conferences are also a place to win.

The five-member team placed first at Domes Day, the Geodesic Dome Design Competition at the Materials Science and Technology Conference. The win marked the first time an Arizona State University team took the No. 1 spot and the fifth straight year a Fulton Schools team has ranked in the top three. The freshman team competed against upperclassmen from eight other universities.

The team formed in an Introduction to Engineering course taught by research specialist Shahriar Anwar for a class project similar to a challenge presented by ASM International. The challenge was to build a cost-effective but strong dome inspired by the ASM Geodesic Dome in Ohio. Domes submitted to the competition could be made of any material, but not cost more than $300 to build.

Dome of the Devils — made up of team members Beilee Kagen, Katrina Santos, Blake Povilus, Ryan Dell’Olio and Alicia Vozza — went to work by first deciding on designs and a material. The next step was to create the structure, the costliest portion of the process.

“When reporting our costs of the actual dome, we have to include services as well as materials,” said Santos, who studies materials science and engineering in the Fulton Schools. “Since our dome was student-welded, we only had to report the cost of materials for our dome. We chose to use aluminum 6061-T6.”

The team’s structure was the only design in the competition welded entirely by a student. Most other teams had had their domes professionally fabricated.

Kagen, a materials science and engineering major, had never welded before, but she had seen it done. Using her teammate’s findings for the optimal material and their hand-sketched and computerized designs, Kagen worked for 17 hours over the span of two weeks to fabricate the dome.

The structure, which cost only $12.72 to create, went on to withstand 11,000 pounds of pressure at the MS&T conference in Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to showcasing the dome at the October conference, the students gave a three-minute presentation focusing on the judges’ main criteria: the design, the cost and the structure’s mechanical properties and strength via compression testing.

The Dome of Devils won the $1,000 first-place award and the attention of the materials science community.

“The best part of the entire experience was networking with professionals and other materials students,” Santos said. “I also met with different companies to inquire about internships and what they look for in students. That’s really helpful for a first-year student like me.”

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