The UC San Diego Seismic Design Team provides undergraduate students the opportunity to explore earthquake engineering through the design, build, and analysis of a 5-foot tall balsa wood model of a high-rise building. The project brings together engineering, architecture, finance and other aspects reflected in real-world projects that encourage creative thinking and facilitate learning.

Every year, the team attends the Undergraduate Seismic Design Competition (SDC) hosted by the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI). The objective of the competition is to design and construct a light-weight tower that sustains minimal damage under earthquake loads, maximizes rentable floor area, and fulfills the additional guidelines provided by the EERI Student Leadership Council. These guidelines change annually based on the location of the competition in order to encourage practical and innovative ideas and to enrich the experiences of returning members. For the 2022 SDC, the team placed within the top 9 proposals and took 1st place for t-shirt design. They also received a bonus for no violations.

The 2023 SDC will be hosted in the San Francisco Bay area and has been given a significantly more challenging design requiring two 19 story towers connected with three to four sky bridges. The sky bridges reflect the several famous bridges around the bay area. The open space can be used to incorporate aesthetic features such as a courtyard, water way, pedestrian, or public transits. The team put in extra attention in designing both floor plans and lateral force resisting systems to tackle the challenge of not only the decreased floor area, but also the possibility of torsional failure.

Team members are involved throughout the entire process from design, construction, analysis to competition. Workshops on AutoCAD, SAP2000/ETABs and Revit held by team leads help develop communication, morale and teamwork, and introduce new members to software programs used by the team. Construction is the most hands-on where members use cool machineries such as the laser cutter and electric saw and actually piece together the floor plans. The team encourages active participation and provides opportunities for members to understand the essential steps of the project.

2022-2023 Seismic Design Leads:

  • Project Managers - Juan Villa Ordonez and Hien Duong
  • Analysis Leads - Hairu Wang and Matthew Tu
    • Junior Analysis Leads - Dominic Tran, Aaron Kang, Rachel Mao
  • Design Lead - Juan Betancort
    • Junior Design Leads - Witsy Gonzalez, Peter Gomez, Christian Dequit, William Huang
  • Construction Leads - Cynthia Zhan and Uzma Saiyed
    • Junior Construction Leads - Anson Anonuevo, Justin Villanueva, Marfred Barrera, Mauricio Delgado Garcia, Alannah Ekberg
  • Finance Lead - Anita Guo
    • Junior Finance Lead - Michelle Lee
  • Architecture Lead - Lillian Hudson
    • Junior Architecture Leads - Ashleann Chen and Jaron Cabrito

    Anchor Sponsorship:
  • Computers and Structures, Inc. (CSI)

  • Computers and Structures Inc. (CSI) is known globally for their structural and earthquake engineering software tools. The softwares CSI produces are SAP2000, CSiBridge, ETABS, SAFE, and PERFORM-3D. The softwares CSI produces was used to design well known structures across the world. These structures include the Taipei 101 Tower in Taiwan, One World Trade Center in New York, the 2008 Olympics Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing and the cable-stayed Centenario Bridge over the Panama Canal.

    We would like to thank CSI for its gracious sponsorship and its amazing support towards the Seismic Design Team!

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    Contact Seismic Design's Project Managers
    Hien Duong (
    Juan Villa Ordonez (