facebook twitter Linkedin Email

ASCE Student Chapter places third in regional steel bridge competition

The Lamar University ASCE Student Chapter excelled at the Texas-Mexico Regional Steel Bridge Competition in Bryan, Texas, recently, beating out numerous teams and landing in the third spot overall among 17 teams at the event. The team’s performance allows them to advance to national competition. 

The American Institute of Steel Construction sponsors the annual competition in which students design, fabricate and construct a 1:10 scale model steel bridge. The bridge is built during the competition, then is load tested with 2,500 pounds and its deflection is measured. The winning bridge is based on its design, construction time, weight, deflection and economic practicality. 

LU Steel Bridge TeamLU’s team placed first in the display category by creating what judges deemed the most aesthetically pleasing bridge, second in stiffness based on the bridge’s performance during the deflection test, and second in efficiency by creating a bridge with the second best steel-to-strength ratio.

By exceling in regionals, the team qualifies to compete in the 2018 National Student Steel Bridge Competition May 25-26 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“I am proud of their performance,” said Jerry Lin, University Professor and Scholar and faculty advisor of the student club. 

“I was very impressed with how the team performed,” said ASCE Lamar University Chapter President Andre Trottier, a senior civil engineering major from Angleton who served as team captain in 2017. “I was in their shoes the previous year when I was on the build team, so I know how they felt going into the competition.” 

“I am a firm believer that multiple people working together and collaborating can develop a better solution than one person on their own,” said Hayden Rice, steel bridge captain and a senior civil engineering major from Lake Jackson. “We met weekly to discuss progress on everyone’s designs and share with the other team members what ideas had worked and which haven’t. Together, we came up with this year’s design that minimized the bridge deflection while optimizing the weight. I think that this really gave us an advantage over other schools.”

Because LU’s ASCE student chapter is smaller than those at the largest institutions, Trottier said, many Lamar students participate in both the steel bridge and concrete canoe competitions. That can be very difficult given students’ demanding schedules, but it is worthwhile, he said. “They get real world experience that they may not be exposed to by only choosing one project.  So even though only 5 people were out there building the bridge, all 15 of us on the sidelines were invested and fully behind them,” he said.

“I’m truly grateful to have been a part of this team again my senior year,” said building team member Reid Johnson, a senior civil engineering major from Buda. “It is all still a little surreal to me … I’m just so proud of all the effort we put in and the performance at competition.”

“I feel that with our success at this year’s steel bridge competition, our young members that are able to go to nationals will get to see some amazing bridges and hopefully build on this year’s success,” Trottier said.

“I was fortunate enough to contribute to our third place finish by assuming the co- captain role of our five-man build and load team at competition,” said Placido Ramos, a junior civil engineering major from Beaumont.

Ramos was instrumental in the fabrication of the bridge and served on the build and load team at the competition. “With the guidance of our Captain Hayden Rice, I was able to pass down to our team members both leadership, instruction, and guidance developed during construction, fabrication, and most importantly, competition,” he said.

“Though I was an aid to Hayden where I could be during the computer design, I was mainly in our lab measuring and cutting the steel member components that would eventually make up the bridge,” he said. Various ASCE members contributed to the project, he said, with countless hours spent designing, cutting, drilling, and welding. 

“Jose Granados was one of the most important members of the team,” Lin said of the senior mechanical engineering major from Beaumont. “He welded every single member and was involved in the decision process of the design. Without his precision welding, the bridge wouldn’t have looked as clean as it did and we may not have received first place in display.”

“You are taking a design on the computer and turning it into a real structure,” Rice said. “Students really work with and apply the concepts they are learning in the classroom. Every piece that is fabricated has to have connections that usually involve a large amount of problem solving and planning to figure out the best way to make them work. The team spends countless hours in the lab over several months.” 

Johnson attributed some of the team’s success on refinements made after the previous year’s bridge failed the lateral deflection test. “We knew we had one more chance this year,” he said, expressing gratitude for help from other engineering students in refining the design. “That disappointment, combined with the increased turnout this year, allowed us to achieve our goal of qualifying for nationals.” 

“The vertical load test is always super stressful for every school,” Rice said. “All the work for the entire year comes down to this one test. And every year many schools don’t pass. This year, our bridge passed with flying colors. When the bridge had all the weight on it, and it looked as if there was almost nothing on it.”

“I was very fortunate be a part of such a hard working, and most importantly, cooperative team that adjusted to changes well,” Ramos said.

“We knew that we had made a great bridge and our students had put for forth a massive effort to have the bridge done on time,” Rice said. “We had truly pushed the limits on our bridge demotions and we knew we’d be within 1/32 in of clearance in some locations. We had checked our measurements several times and knew we should be good, but it’s always nerve racking when tolerances are that small.”

Competing in nationals will expose the LU team to more than 50 innovative bridge designs, Johnson said, giving next year’s team “new insight on methods and techniques which will only benefit the program.” 

“Next year, we will be make changes to fabrication scheduling as well as to design, as design specifications change every year for bridge completion,” Ramos said. “We are looking forward to when the design criteria will be released to our students and adjustments will be made accordingly once those criteria are known.”

“It’s been a life changing experience for me, and I know I’ll cherish these memories, both the heartaches and triumphs,” Johnson said.