Students Prep for ASCE Nationals Without Burning Their Bridges

Hello again!

Last week you may have come across our article tracing the tracks of the 2016 ASCE Steel Bridge Competition team at Illinois Tech (running alongside the Concrete Canoe Competition team), starting from the very first paper sketches until the placement of the final bar of the 2,500-lb. load on the bridge, which thankfully decided not to collapse down upon our hopes, dreams, and unprotected shins.

Following our 2nd place score regionally at GLSC 2016 last month, Illinois Institute of Technology qualified for the National Student Steel Bridge Competition for the first time since 2010. This year, Steel Bridge nationals will be held from May 27-28 at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

While all of us were both proud and excited to have brought this honor to IIT and our student chapter of ASCE, we couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of what lay ahead in the next couple of weeks; Not only would we need to procure last-minute funding in order for us to attend the competition, but we also had to organize travel plans and reach out to potential sponsors within the next two weeks in order to meet the registration deadline for nationals– falling right in line with our final exams.

Co-captains Efrain Gallegos, Gustavo Gonzalez, Nene Sanankoua, Tristan Penepacker, and build team member Mike Desch are all full-time students who are also working/seeking internships, so we tried to get as much work done before finals week as possible. Fortunately, we were able to start contacting a list of potential sponsors through the help of ASCE treasurer (and Concrete Canoe co-captain) Aaron Grudowski.

Read: Student Engineers are Building a Steel Bridge to Utah

As we organized our finances and made travel plans, we also provided presentations to a couple of potential sponsors along the way. After finals were over, the team could then turn their attention to improving the bridge and construction method before nationals. Upon assessing the bridge itself, we determined that there wasn’t much we could do towards changing it structurally (the arch will have to wait till next year…).

However, there are definitely some ways to speed up the building process; By welding in the bolts holding the bottom chord of the bridge together, the builders would only have to add nuts at those connections, saving almost 30 seconds worth of construction time. This would also allow us to secure all the nut & bolt connections after the build team finishes assembling the bridge, avoiding the added 5-minute penalty for loose nuts which hurt our score during the GLSC competition.

The national competition now begins in two weeks, and as we continue doing practice build runs, we feel confident that ASCE IIT’s 2016 Steel Bridge (“Lucky 8”) can place in the Top 3 for Construction Speed and Efficiency at nationals– The bridge should perform just fine in the other categories (Stiffness, Lightness, Display, etc.) based on our regional performance, and looking at the published construction times of other bridges that qualify for nationals this year, our average construction time would place us high up in the speed categories.

There will be 48 schools competing in the National Student Steel Bridge Competition this year, consisting of the best teams from across North America (Mexico and Canada included!). We are very excited to be representing the Illinois Institute of Technology at this level, and shall continue searching for sponsors up until the beginning of the competition.

Until next time…