April 12th, 2019. After a smooth year of design work and fabrication, the Steel Bridge team was confident they had built a winning bridge. Load testing was successful back in March, and the build team had practiced for a full month to perfect their build time. When the time came to compete, the team was ready. In just over 7 minutes, a collection of nuts, bolts, and steel pieces transformed into a 23-foot long, functional steel bridge.
The joys of a successful build were short lived, however, as the judges quickly pointed out an issue with the bridge. What they noticed was a hole on the top rail that had been overlooked by the team. Although it had no affect on the strength of the bridge, it was a violation of the rules and a penalty was placed on the team.
With nothing they could do about it, the team continued with competition and put the penalty behind them. If the bridge did well enough in other categories, maybe the penalty wouldn’t hurt their score too bad.
After the bridge was loaded and measured, there was nothing left to do but wait for the awards ceremony. The team was optimistic that their stellar performance would more than make up for the penalty, but everyone was nervous nonetheless.
As soon as the awards started being announced, it became clear that the team was in good standing. Missouri S&T was called twice as the winner of an individual category: Construction Speed and Construction Economy. And finally, despite the penalty to their score, the team was announced as the overall winner of the SSBC Mid-Continent Regional Competition.
Despite the resounding success of the competition, the team left with lessons learned. Every aspect of the bridge needs to be double, triple, and quadruple checked before competition to ensure penalties don’t happen again in the future. It would have been devastating to miss out on the National Competition if such a small, easily-fixed issue was the cause of failure.