Geological Engineering Students Place at GeoChallenge Competition

GeoChallenge Student Competition
Sean Harris and Ian Needs at the site of
their project near Anaconda, MT

A team of geological engineering undergraduate students from Montana Technological University placed second in the 2021 GeoChallenge Student Poster Competition hosted by the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

There are four GeoChallenge Competitions in which students are invited to participate each year at the annual conference. They are GeoWall, GeoPrediction, GeoPoster, and GeoVideo.

For the 2021 GeoPoster competition, the subject of the posters has to be within geotechnical or geoenvironmental engineering. Each individual or team also had to be able to clearly present their project and be able to answer questions about their work.

Seniors Sean Harris and Ian Needs presented their poster, “Pintler Peaks Slope Instability Investigation and Design,” which summarized their senior design project.

Sean Harris
Sean Harris '21
Geological Engineering

The team from Montana Tech rose to the top 6 in the first round of judging with a 3-minute recorded narration of their poster. The team was then invited to participate in the second round of judging which included a live 7-minute web presentation followed by 3 minutes of questions.

First and third places went to Ph.D. students from North Carolina State University and Arizona State University.

Montana Tech has never participated in this competition, so although we knew that Sean and Ian had a great project, we had no idea whether their poster would be competitive. We are so proud that they were awarded second place,” beamed Geological Engineering faculty advisor Mary MacLaughlin.

"Having the opportunity to compete against Ph.D. candidates is almost like being pulled up from the minor leagues. We never expected to hold our own with many of the other finalists having more academic training. It really speaks to Montana Tech's faculty and values when bachelor's students can go on to take second in a national competition," said Harris.

Ian Needs
Ian Needs '21
Geological Engineering

"Being recognized for our efforts on this project is merely the icing on the cake. The real reward comes in the form of hands-on experience, and the satisfaction of helping the landowners," added Needs.

In addition to their recognition from the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Harris and Needs' project also took top honors in the Geological Engineering category at this year's Techxpo symposium in April.

As for their plans after graduation, Harris has accepted an offer of employment from Pioneer Technical Services in Helena, Montana, and Needs will be moving to Alaska in July.