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The Goethals Infrastructure Challenge: A Proposal for a New Student Competition

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Using Student Competitions to Enhance Learning

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1203.1 - 23.1203.14



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Paper Authors


Steven D Hart U.S. Military Academy

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LTC Steve Hart is currently assigned as the ERDC Engineering Fellow and Director of Infrastructure Studies at West Point. He has taught numerous civil engineering courses including innovative courses on Infrastructure Engineering and Critical Infrastructure Protection and has authored numerous articles and a book chapter on these subjects. He is the developer and lead proponent of The Critical Infrastructure Symposium, now in its third year. He is active in The Infrastructure Security Partnership and the American Society of Civil Engineers including services on the Committee on Critical Infrastructure as well as the American Society of Engineering Education.

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Johnette C. Shockley U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center

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Johnnie Shockley is a Civil Engineer/Technology Transfer Officer with the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), Office of Technology Transfer out of the ERDC’s executive office located in Ft. Belvoir, Va. Johnnie currently works virtually as the Office of Research and Technology Applications (ORTA) for the ERDC Cold Regions Research Laboratory in Hanover, NH., and the Topographic Engineering Center, Research Division of the Army Geospatial Center. She is an ERDC liaison to the Army Educational Outreach Program where she is committed to inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers, and technologists.

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Leah R Ellis University of Nebraska, Peter Kiewit Institute


Berndt Spittka P.E. Unitee States Military Academy- Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering

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Major Berndt Spittka is currently an instructor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy. Spittka’s education includes a B.S. in Civil Engineering from USMA, a Master’s of Engineering Management from University of Missouri Science and Technology and a Science Master’s of Civil Engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MAJ Spittka is a Registered Professional Engineer in Missouri. Spittka’s research interests are Design for future repair, Critical Infrastructure, Design for Sustainability and Engineering Education. He is an active member of the American Society for Engineering Education and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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The Goethals Infrastructure Challenge: A Proposal for a New Student CompetitionThe American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) and American Society of Civil Engineers(ASCE) Steel Bridge and ASCE’s Concrete Canoe competitions are a staple of civil engineeringeducation. These two competitions provide a technical design problem for students to solveunder very tight performance requirements, solution envelops, and evaluation standards whichtend to drive competitors to similar, optimized solutions. In contrast to these highly structuredproblems, both the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the American Society of CivilEngineers (ASCE) report that the engineer of the 21st Century will also be called upon to solveextremely complex, daunting, and ill-structured problems. The authors and their institutions arecurrently developing the Goethals Infrastructure Challenge as a new student competition builtaround solving the social-technical, complex adaptive, and ‘wicked’ problems associated withdesigning, constructing, operating and maintaining the world’s infrastructure. This paperexplains the organization of the Goethals Infrastructure Challenge, the student learningobjectives for participating in the challenge, the annual process used to formulate the challenge,required funding mechanism, submission procedures, judging and evaluation plans, andbudgeting and funding. In addition to being educational, this competition is designed to inspire anew generation of engineers to address the challenges we face in “restoring and improving urbaninfrastructure” and “providing access to clean water” as suggested by the NAE, managing the$2.2 trillion necessary to improve our infrastructure, and defining what infrastructure should beand do when functioning optimally in the knowledge-based, global economy of the 21st Century.For this reason, the challenge is named for George Washington Goethals who, with the buildingof the Panama Canal, transformed 20th Century infrastructure in the hope that this event willinspire the participants and the engineering profession to transform the 21st Centuryinfrastructure in a similar way.

Hart, S. D., & Shockley, J. C., & Ellis, L. R., & Spittka, B. (2013, June), The Goethals Infrastructure Challenge: A Proposal for a New Student Competition Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22588

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