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Mount Union Civil Engineering Students Compete in Philadelphia Geo-Wall Competition

April 08, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania — The GeoWall competition is part of the Geo-Congress held by the Geo-Institute of American Society of Civil Engineers, and this year, a team of four University of Mount Union civil engineering students placed ninth overall in the final.

The team of Monty Al Ashoor ’19, of Alliance, Ohio, Justin Cates ’19, of Perrysville, Ohio, Joe Datz ’19, of London, Ohio and Charles Cope ’21, of Poland, Ohio was advised by Dr. Yan Liu, assistant professor of civil engineering and submitted their proposal in January.

The students were asked to design and build a mechanically stabilized Earth retaining wall on site within a limited period of time and requires an invitation to have a chance to participate. 

“It’s not as simple as going and constructing the wall there, because each stage of construction and loading is timed,” Datz said. “We had tested several designs, and each one seemed to fail during the first loading stage, and it was just a letdown every time. But out of nowhere, one of the designs actually stood through all of the required loading stages. I remember everyone yelling at the wall, hoping that it would stay up. This wall was the turning point in the design, because this actually gave us proof that our process and design worked.” 

This is the second time that the Department of Engineering has sent a team to the invitation-only national competition; the last time Mount Union was selected was in 2015.

“The engineering program here is phenomenal,” Datz said. “The professors here really care about your learning, and it shows. They always seem to know the right time when to help you and when to let you struggle. It’s this process that allowed us to understand how to work independently and try to teach ourselves concepts if we get confused.” 

"This experience showed students how to design a Mechanically Stabilized Earth retaining wall while giving them creative thinking, leadership experience and teamwork skills," said Liu.  "Students learned how effectively working as a team can also help them succeed in a competitive work environment."

To learn more about civil engineering at Mount Union, visit