A Little Fun with Testing

My apologies for being late with my blog post this week. We are having our once a year big sales meeting, so I’ve been traveling to the Midwest to participate. Speaking of traveling, several times each year, we invite our newest employees to our home office in Pleasanton, California for a week-long Sales and Product Orientation class. Although originally envisioned as detailed product knowledge training for our sales people, the class has evolved over the years to include people from all areas of our business such as finance, accounting, IT, purchasing, quality, marketing, and (of course) engineering.

I do one presentaton for the class explaining the importance of a continuous load path in a building, and another covering the history of innovation that led to some of our products. It is a great opportunity for me to meet my new coworkers by spending some time with them before they embark on their careers in different parts of the country (or world!).

Holdown Test Setup

My favorite training session I do for the class is about product development and testing, which includes a tour of our test lab in Pleasanton. We go over a lot of testing basics – how we select lumber, get parts made, build setups and run the tests. For a demonstration, I used to run a simple joist hanger test and also a holdown test. Usually I’ll pick a heavy holdown to test, since those make an impressive bang when the steel breaks, and then everyone jumps and gets a good laugh out of it.

Holdown at Failure

The lab technicians running the test got bored with holdowns, so they got a little more creative in what we test. Last year we tried crushing soccer balls and basketballs. Those were fun because the balls deformed in weird ways and deformed a lot, so there was a great deal of anticipation of the final pop. But they didn’t get a whole lot of load. This year, we stepped up to crushing a bowling ball. Not much deformation, but LOTS of load, and they do make quite a loud bang (which my camera didn’t do justice). Here’s this summer’s bowling ball test in slow motion:

We kept the bowling ball fragments, so we were thinking of repairing it with epoxy and carbon fiber to retest for the next class we do.

So how much load do you think a basketball can take before popping? How about a bowling ball (it was a 12 pound ball, if that helps?) Let me know in the comments!

– Paul

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Paul McEntee

Author: Paul McEntee

A couple of years back we hosted a “Take your daughter or son to work day,” which was a great opportunity for our children to find out what their parents did. We had different activities for the kids to learn about careers and the importance of education in opening up career opportunities. People often ask me what I do for Simpson Strong-Tie and I sometimes laugh about how my son Ryan responded to a questionnaire he filled out that day:

Q.   What is your mom/dad's job?
A.   Goes and gets coffee and sits at his desk

Q.   What does your mom/dad actually do at work?
A.   Walks in the test lab and checks things

When I am not checking things in the lab or sitting at my desk drinking coffee, I manage Engineering Research and Development for Simpson Strong-Tie, focusing on new product development for connectors and lateral systems.

I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and I am a licensed Civil and Structural Engineer in California. Prior to joining Simpson Strong-Tie, I worked for 10 years as a consulting structural engineer designing commercial, industrial, multi-family, mixed-use and retail projects. I was fortunate in those years to work at a great engineering firm that did a lot of everything. This allowed me to gain experience designing with wood, structural steel, concrete, concrete block and cold-formed steel as well as working on many seismic retrofits of historic unreinforced masonry buildings.