Teenagers get a taste of structural engineering at CityU's BASIC 2005

Louis Won


On 3rd December (Saturday), more than 100 secondary-school students from Hong Kong and Macau became structural engineers for a day as they competed to design and build a transmission tower in the 4th Build and Shake Inter-school Competition (BASIC 2005), which was organised by the Department of Building and Construction (BC) of City University of Hong Kong.


The aim of the annual BASIC event is to stimulate the interest of teenagers in structural engineering by asking them to build a model of a real structure that must be able to withstand shaking as a result of an earthquake or typhoon using only basic construction materials, such as wood strips and glue sticks.


Thirty-six teams of Form 4 to 7 students spent the morning building models of transmission towers with a minimum height of 600 mm. To make the task that bit harder and more realistic, the model towers had to have two loading levels with two cross arms on each floor from which weights were hung

to simulate the power cables that would be carried by the arms of real transmission towers. In a real situation, if the arms of transmission towers fall off or the structure collapses, a power failure will occur.


The model towers were put to the test on the special shaking table at CityU’s Heavy Structures Testing Laboratory. The 20-square-metre table, which is the largest of its kind among local universities, was made to generate a series of artificial earthquakes of gradually increasing intensity, and the model that stood intact the longest was proclaimed the winner.


"Achille Castiglioni 2005" put together by the team from SKH Li Ping Secondary School was the winner this year. It was also the third consecutive time that the school won the championship of the annual event. The first runner-up and second runner-up went to Yan Chai Hospital No. 2 Secondary School and CCCMingKeiCollege respectively.


“We asked the secondary school students to design and build models of a real structure – a transmission tower,” said Chair Professor Sritawat Kitipornchai, Head of CityU’s BC. “By making the models as shake-resistant as possible the teams are actually trying to solve a real problem, which is to prevent power failure,” he said.


The judging panel for BASIC 2005 was chaired by Dr James Lau, JP, Managing Director of James Lau and Associates Ltd. The other judges were Mr Joseph Y W Mak, Senior Structural Engineer of the Housing Department; Mr Gary T B Kwok, Civil Asset Manager, Asset Management Department, Power Systems of CLP Power; and Mr Ip Ping-hong, Executive Director of WLS Holdings Ltd.


Guests of honour at the event included Mr Stewart S T Wong, Managing Director of Hanison Construction Company Ltd; Professor Paul K S Lam, Associate Dean and Chair Professor of CityU's Faculty of Science and Engineering; and Professor Andrew Y T Leung and Professor Liew Kim-meow, both Chair Professors in CityU’s Department of Building and Construction.


The event was sponsored by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers; the University of Manchester; the University of Queensland; Hanison Construction Company Ltd; Wui Loong Scaffolding Works Company Ltd; Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Ltd; the Hong Kong Housing Society; Levett & Bailey Quantity Surveyors Ltd; Swire Coca-Cola Hong Kong; and CLP Power.


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