Student Engineers are Building a Steel Bridge to Utah

If you were following last month’s series of articles covering the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition team at Illinois Tech, then you might also be a little familiar with the AISC/ASCE Student Steel Bridge Competition. Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe are the two student competitions sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at the national level. Both competitions share the similar goal of providing engineering students with the opportunity to use design and build a competition piece.

Read the previous Concrete Canoe coverage. 
part 1 / part 2 / part 3. Watch the video here

Initially, we planned to build the best-looking bridge we could imagine. Two of the captains advanced on that idea and drafted an arched bridge. Realistically, we could have proceeded with our plan to construct an arched bridge; however, given the circumstances, it would not have been as efficient for the competition.

All Steel Bridge teams (schools) are given a steel bridge 2016 rule packet. These rules are comparable to the standards used in the real world. The rule packet consists of following categories: eligibility, safety precautions, scoring, materials, structural and component specifications, and construction regulations. Taking the rules into consideration, we discussed the pros and cons of the two bridge designs. After evaluating our options, the bridge with the most pros and bridge that will result with the most scoring point became our final bridge. This was our strategy!

There was no doubt in one of our captain’s, Gustavo Gonzalez, mind that this would be one of the winning bridges in the regional competition. We had assistance from Jorge Cobo, a former IIT steel bridge captain, who helped us during the design and fabrication processes. We also had assistance from Stan Johnson, our shop technician, who taught us how to weld and use several other machines to fabricate steel members.

Six months went by.

Here we are, 3 weeks before the ASCE Steel Bridge competition, the designing, fabrication, and welding was complete. The last few steps, loading the bridge and practicing were the scariest part thus far. This was the moment of truth. Will the Bridge survive the load test? After all, 2500 pounds is the weight of a Honda civic LX. Unfortunately, at first, the bridge did not survive the load test. One of the bolts in the connection sheared, and broke. As we were loading, one of the team members suggested that we use higher strength bolts rather than the regular silver bolt. As a result, the bolt broke and the bridge was able to withstand the load with the bolt with a higher strength.

Following the load test, it was time to practice, and believe it, we practiced for three weeks straight. The day before the competition, everybody on the team was confident with the bridge we had constructed.

GLSC Competition Result: (part 2)

ASCE IIT Steel Bridge team Amazing Construction technique

On April 14th-16th, Illinois Institute of Technology hosted the 2016 ASCE Great Lakes Student Conference. At this Conference, our Steel Bridge team performed extremely well.

We placed 2nd overall, and qualified for the National Steel Bridge Competition being held in Provo, Utah from May 27th-28th!

During the timed construction, IIT’s steel bridge team had the least construction time. Unfortunately, due to a penalty, an extra five minutes were added to their recorded time. In addition, during the construction, two builders stepped in the river, which is the deadliest penalty.

There was a lot of pressure on the team captain, Gustavo Gonzalez, during the loading test. Even though he was confident the bridge will hold the weight, it could have collapsed. What if the bolts were not properly tied, or what if the deflection increases? These were a few questions Gustavo asked himself. Fortunately, the bridge survived. It withheld 2500 pounds with a deflection that we all expected. On to Provo!!!

This year is the 25th anniversary of the National Steel Bridge Competition.

Stay tuned as the Illinois Tech team heads to Nationals…

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