What’s New with Bridge?

After a year of hiatus, the Missouri S&T Steel Bridge Design Team website is up and running once again! A lot has happened since our last update, so we’ll do our best to bring you up to speed.

Last year, our team began the competition season with a great deal of perspective. We had just competed at the 2016 national conference, which offered great insight into the things that our team was capable of accomplishing. Furthermore, we had qualified for the competition with a bridge that was a last-minute means of replacing our original bridge (in case you don’t remember, our original bridge failed during a preliminary load test). This showed us that our resolve was strong enough to weather unforeseen storms–even one as catastrophic as our project breaking a month before competition.

However, in addition to the positive traits that our perspective revealed, areas of improvement were brought to our attention. Making it to nationals was a great feat in itself, but we were not as competitive as we would have liked (we placed 44th out of the 48 teams present). We realized that this was because our bridge was not properly optimized, due largely to the fact that it was a replacement for our first bridge. Also, we learned the importance of designing well within the prescribed ranges; our bridge length was close to the minimum, which resulted in several penalties during construction at nationals.

Thus, we set out last year to make a bridge that was more optimized and more within the dimensional limits than the previous bridge. The biggest rule change last year was a cost penalty for not making a bridge with a cantilever extension. We decided to take on this design challenge, and to optimize our rigidity, we decided to try our hand at an over truss design once again. Our final design was an approximately 20-ft long cantilever over truss. The design was considerably more complex than those of previous years, but the large amount of experience and dedication on our team reassured us that we would be able to make the design a reality.

Although we left the design phase with a great deal of optimism, this was soon interrupted by an unforeseen trial: Our team’s longtime adviser Dr. Timothy Philpot passed away in January due to a stroke. His passing was a devastating loss for our team, who had grown very close to him and his family through numerous Steel Bridge seasons, competitions, and social events. Moreover, as a professor of mechanics of materials, Dr. Philpot taught many students across many engineering disciplines, and his passing was deeply felt by the entire Missouri S&T community. To commemorate Dr. Philpot’s contributions to our team and to the university as a whole, we dedicated our bridge to him and held a ceremony in his honor. The entire campus was invited to the ceremony, and the atrium of Butler-Carlton Hall was filled with students and faculty who thought highly of him. The campus will continue to feel Dr. Philpot’s absence, but it will also continue to feel his outstanding impact as an adviser, a teacher, and a friend.

Dr. Roger LaBoube graciously stepped in as the team’s interim adviser after Dr. Philpot’s passing, and by early March we had completed bridge fabrication. We carried out a preliminary load test of the bridge, and we passed with very little deflection, which renewed our confidence going into April’s competition. After practicing bridge assembly for a month and improving our build times, we were ready to head to the University of Arkansas to compete.

In 2017, the mid-continent region had 13 teams participating in the regional ASCE/AISC conference. As always, we were excited to see the solutions the other teams had formulated to meet the design and construction criteria established by the rules, and there were a ton of unique ideas presented. Our team placed third in construction speed with a time of 17.60 minutes, second in construction economy with a cost of $3,520,000, and third overall with a cost of $7,941,572. The score was the team’s best out of the past four years, and the competition was remarkably close (an approximately $600,000 spread separated first from third). Sadly, only the top two teams were allowed to advance to nationals, so Fayetteville was the end of the road for us. Despite not moving on, we were emboldened by our good performance and were excited for another opportunity to improve further.

We are currently taking advantage of this opportunity as we gear up for the 2018 competition season! We finished designing and optimizing our bridge this past semester, and we have placed our steel order in preparation for fabrication. We have a large number of dedicated younger members on the team this year, which will be a great asset whenever our plethora of older members leave at the end of the school year. The team has grown closer through numerous social events and many hours working on the design, and we hope to grow even closer heading into fabrication and competition. We will keep you posted as we build towards our “Best-Ever” year!

Bridge Hard!

– The Missouri University of Science and Technology Steel Bridge Design Team