Lessons Learned from a Design Competition for Structural Engineering Students: The Case of a Pedestrian Walkway at the Université de Sherbrooke

Pierre Labossiere, Luke A. Bisby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Competence in design is an engineering skill that can only be achieved with appropriate training and through accumulation of relevant experience. While in some fields of engineering there are numerous industry-oriented problems that can be investigated reasonably thoroughly, and for which the pinnacle of formation is attained when a team of university students builds a working prototype, there are unfortunately few genuinely realistic conceive-design-build-test (operate) opportunities in which structural engineering students can participate actively during their formative years. This stems from the very nature of structural engineering itself which, as in the case of most civil engineering designs, usually calls for a unique solution to a problem of relatively large scale. One way to provide a realistic and significant structural engineering design opportunity is through student design competitions. However, the conditions of success for such a competition depend on the appropriate coincidence of interest between program goals, commitment from the owner of the structure to be designed and eventually built, and support, both financial and technical, from professional or research organizations. This case study reports on a recent structural engineering student design competition for a pedestrian walkway in Sherbrooke, Canada. It highlights the key technical features of the competition, the organizational obstacles, and the professional benefits for the participants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Professional Issues in Engineering Education and Practice
Issue number1
Early online date15 Dec 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010

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