The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) team at California State University, Northridge has traveled from Los Angeles to Tucson to Kansas City, showcasing the steel bridge that they built as a team on competition site, applying engineering principles and theory in their design.
The team was invited to compete in the 2015 National Student Steel Bridge Competition on May 22-23 in Kansas City, Mo., after placing second at the regionals in Tucson, Ariz.
This year’s captain, Kevin Liu, recruited about 30 teammates after reading the competition guidelines to build the bridge. Then, the ASCE team split up into separate groups to design and construct the bridge model. Once the bridge was complete, Liu selected four people to conduct trial runs and test out certain categories, which were judged in the regional and national competitions.
Students work long hours on the design and construction of the bridge as volunteers.
“They are not paid, and it is not part of any course,” said Rais Ahmad, assistant professor of the Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics Department. “Each student spends more than 150 hours on this project.”
The team’s first stop was Tucson, for the regional competition.
“At regionals, there were about 17 teams that participated,” Ahmad said. “Those teams included the University of Arizona, UC San Diego, UCLA, USC, Cal State Long Beach, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Colorado State, University of Hawaii and others.”
From the 17 teams that participated, the top three go to the national championship. During this regional competition, the team placed first in deflection, which determines how much the bridge deforms when weight is loaded on it; first in construction time; second in economy, lightness and efficiency; and third in display — placing second overall.
Next stop was the University of Missouri, Kansas City for the national competition. This prestigious event offers future structural engineers the opportunity to display their skills in steel design, steel fabrication and teamwork. Forty-seven student teams participated from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
“There, our students also did very well,” Ahmad said. “They ranked 14th in the nation, and in one specific category — the stiffness of the bridge, when 2,400 pounds are placed on it — the team placed second.”
One of the basic changes the team made between regionals in Arizona and nationals in Missouri was to use three builders instead of four. This helped to better their overall national ranking, because it took less builders to build the bridge on site.
“[Placing nationally] was our best achievement so far in our history,” Ahmad said. “We were well regarded, and other universities knew that California State University, Northridge had a very good student team.
“This is excellent exposure for our students in the engineering community,” he said. “As structural engineers, it gives them an additional boost for their future. The students now have the practical application of their education, and big companies that sponsor these competitions get to know what these students from CSUN can do.”