Cal Poly's California Geotechnical Engineers Association chapter goes on industry tours to learn more about the field. | Courtesy Photo

Samantha Sullivan
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Rising stars.

That’s what the California Geotechnical Engineers Association (CalGeo) decided members of Cal Poly’s student chapter were. The association awarded the chapter with the Rising Star Award this past month for being the most outstanding chapter within CalGeo.

The award goes to the club that put the most effort into expanding its membership base and going “above and beyond” what is expected, civil engineering junior and President-elect Olivia Davis said. The club was founded in 2013 and gained 20 members in its first year, a “really big deal” for an engineering club, Davis said.

Cal Poly’s CalGeo Club received the award at its annual conference in front of approximately 200 people, Davis said. Members went onstage to talk about their club, she said.

“So we said something that was like, ‘We just wanted to get our foot in the door,” and they were like, ‘You kicked the door down. You completely blew our expectations away,’” Davis said.

Geotechnical engineering deals with subsurface structures such as foundations, dams and retaining walls. It also deals with site profiling, such as determining what kind of soil builders are dealing with and how that will impact the building, Davis said.

“It’s pretty much the building blocks to all buildings, basically,” civil engineering junior and Vice President-elect Quintin Flores said.

Flores helped start the club in 2013 because of a lack of interest in the field, though it is becoming more popular in the industry, he said. Through the club, he hopes to generate interest among students.

As a club, the group gets speakers to come to every meeting so members can learn about the industry and make connections. The group also goes on industry tours; Flores was the tour coordinator last year.

Cal Poly’s CalGeo Competition Team — which is separate from the club, but receives funding from it — was also recognized for placing fifth in the national GeoWall Competition held in February. The competition involves building a scale retaining wall meant to hold back hundreds of pounds of soil.

The wall was a 24-by-18-inch plywood box, said Flores, the project manager. The wall contained two types of paper and packaging tape to hold back the soil, which in this competition was 400 pounds of sand held within the box. The style of this wall is called a mechanically stabilized Earth wall.

To get into the competition, schools submitted a design paper, which is graded by the judges. Out of 22 schools that submitted papers, 16 were allowed to compete and the Cal Poly team finished fifth.

The team placed second at its regional competition, the Pacific Southwest Conference, which had approximately 20 schools. The team earned these spots because of hard work and dedication, Flores said.

“We stay in the labs for a ridiculous amount of time,” Flores said. “Sometimes you feel like you’re living in there.”

To stay progressive in the competition, the team plans to work more with professors to learn new technology and methods of analysis, he said.

Davis encourages younger students to join the team and learn to put their class work to use.

“It’s also a good way to get ahead,” Flores said.

For those interested in joining the team, Davis said to go out and volunteer, learn the ropes, then apply to be on the team. All grades and majors are invited to volunteer.

Meetings for the CalGeo club will be held every even week, so the first meeting will take place during the second week of fall quarter. Meetings will take place on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon in Engineering (building 13), room 123.

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