A Cal Poly civil engineering team won the design competition “City of the Future: A Design and Engineering Challenge” in Los Angeles in March for a structural plan for the city 100 years from now.
The team, SLOMobility, was composed of four civil engineering seniors: Derek Benedict, Tony Henderson, Karen Nishimoto and Chris Pratt.
“It is hard because you are looking 100 years in the future,” Benedict said.
The event was sponsored by The History Channel, IBM and The American Society of Civil Engineers, and the parameters for the competition were based around a design submitted from a professional architectural firm.
Three teams competed in the competition, including two from Cal Poly and one from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Each team had the choice to concentrate in one of three areas of design: transportation, water or energy. SLOMobility chose to design a future solution for transportation in Los Angeles.
Using a proposal created by the professional architectural team that showed arch-like structures constructed over existing freeways, creating multiple levels for different purposes, SLOMobility developed a plan for citywide transportation. In their plan, the team considered many guiding questions, including how to transport waste, how the rising water level will affect the city and if bike compatibility was necessary.
“A lot of it was based on innovation, originality and how well we provided engineering solutions,” Henderson said.
The competition was brought to Benedict’s attention when his adviser, Gregg Siegel, who is active in the American Society of Civil Engineers, was recruiting students to create a Cal Poly team.
Benedict, the former president of Cal Poly’s Society of Civil Engineers, worked to find team members and develop a winning design.
“He brought the idea to us and we consulted with several faculty members,” Henderson said.
“I really wanted to do transportation personally. It is more than just technology. It is a social and political issue too. I recruited people who would like it as well,” Benedict said.
After a number of meetings, the team completed a design that effectively integrated transportation systems with futuristic elements to process the city’s needs.
SLOMobility included changing levels on the freeway arches that provided rapid public transport, bike accessibility and city parks to unify the city.
“Right now, freeways really divide the city. Our design helps reconnect L.A.,” Henderson said.
The design planning took the team roughly five weeks to complete and included the implementation of mathematical equations and illustrations of the design.
“To prepare, we did do research on other cities and countries,” Henderson said.
Even after the competition is over, Benedict and Henderson continue to look back on the team’s design and think of new changes that could make the system better.
“People want a convenient and comfortable system,” Henderson said.
“I think (the design) leaves a lot to be desired. Los Angeles has one of the best systems in the country. There are just too many people,” Benedict said. “However, we are moving in the right direction.”
“I can definitely see something along these lines happening in the future,” Henderson said. “It is something that will be very gradual.”
The four team members shared a $5,000 prize and individual laptop computers. Since winning, their project has been presented at a number of events and meetings on and off campus.