Building Towards Success

It’s been an exciting competition season for the Missouri S&T Steel Bridge Team! After design and fabrication of our tiny undertruss bridge (it’s only 1′-9″ tall), we load-tested it, practiced construction, and set out for Carbondale, Illinois for the regional competition. This year was both a fun and challenging one for the competition: On the fun side, power tools were allowed for the first time since 2014, which made assembly speeds go up across the board and added to the already very competitive atmosphere surrounding construction; on the challenging side, a $70,000/builder/minute cost of construction and a $3,000,000/inch cost of aggregate deflection made both construction economy and stiffness crucial focuses for optimization (the costs were $50,000/builder/minute and $1,000,000/inch last year).

The team posing with the bridge. As you can see, the bridge is a roughly knee-high undertruss–much smaller than a typical year’s bridge!

We stepped up to the challenge, and we finished first place overall out of the 13 teams present at Carbondale! Here’s a breakdown of our performance:

  • Overall- 1st Place
  • Construction Speed- 2nd Place
  • Efficiency- 2nd Place
  • Stiffness- 3rd Place
  • Economy- 1st Place
  • Lightness- 1st Place
  • Aesthetics- 4th Place

Our overall “cost” of the bridge was $5,671,333, which was about half of the second place cost and one-third of the third place cost. This was a huge confidence boost for us as we returned to Rolla and continued to practice construction in the month leading up to the national competition.

The build team during their Regionals construction. In the background, Ben Parr is on the left and Brett Murray is on the right. In the foreground, Alex Schull is on the left and Brendan Judge is on the right.

Nationals were held in Champagne, Illinois, which made for another relatively short road trip for us. On display day, we learned a ton about the other teams’ fabrication and construction methods, and we were pleased to see that many teams had designs similar to ours–great minds think alike! On construction day, our build team once again bridged with the best of them, bolting to a construction time of 6:53. The construction economy score (from the assembly time and number of builders) plus the efficiency score (from load testing) yielded an overall score of $5,640,167 and a place of 26th out of the 42 universities present. A notable milestone for us was our 10th place finish in the lightness category; achieving a working bridge with upper-tier lightness has been a years-long goal for us.

The team and adviser Dr. Nicolas Libre posing for a quick photo before the Nationals awards banquet.

We’ve grown so much as students, professionals, and individuals throughout this Bridge season, and we look forward to applying this year’s wisdom to next year’s competition! Even though the yearly rule changes make planning ahead difficult, we’re already brainstorming things to maintain and things to improve upon for our next bridge. Keep following us as we build towards success in 2019!

Bridge Hard!

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