UC Davis students win big in steel bridge engineering competition

Categories of competition were construction speed, stiffness, lightness, economy, display and efficiency.

University of California-Berkeley students prepare for the vertical load test. Photo courtesy of the AISC.
June 05, 2014

A team of 20 students from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) were named champions in the 2014 ASCE/AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition (NSSBC), hosted by the University of Akron's College of Engineering, May 23-24 in Akron, Ohio. For the third consecutive year, second place overall went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. University of California, Berkeley, took third place overall this year.
 
About 600 students from 47 college and university teams participated in the 23rd annual national competition and demonstrated their ability to design, fabricate and construct their own scaled steel bridge in the shortest time and under specific building constraints. This prestigious intercollegiate competition challenges civil engineering students to further expand upon their structural design and construction skills learned in the classroom and provides practical experience in communication and teamwork.
 
Categories of competition were construction speed, stiffness, lightness, economy, display and efficiency. The teams with the best combined rankings across all categories earn overall award recognition.
 
This is the second time UC Davis has won the national championship title in the school's history. Their first win was in 2005.
 
"We were thrilled to come in first place," said Quincy Dahm, S.M.ASCE, one of the team captains of the UC Davis steel bridge team. "It had been too long since our last victory, and we wanted to leave a mark this year. A few people were determined to make that happen and that's what drove us to success, a lot of hours from a handful of students."
 
Dahm also credits the team's win to the extremely lightweight design of their bridge. At 79 lbs., their bridge was 12lbs. lighter than the second lightest, which allowed them to sit back at 6th and 9th place for stiffness and construction economy respectively. Of course, those categories required plenty of effort as well. "We practiced building the bridge nearly every day and fabrication demanded precision to keep deflection under control. If we slacked at all in any area, I doubt we would have gotten first place."
 
"It has been a challenging year, and the student team worked extremely hard since the very beginning," added Dawn Cheng, Ph.D., M.ASCE, faculty advisor for the UC Davis steel bridge team and associate professor at the UC Davis Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.  "This well-deserved achievement takes dedication, hard work and perfection of engineering and leadership skills. Winning is not the final goal of the competition. Being part of such a great life time experience is what matters."
The top three winners in each category were:
 

Construction Speed

Clemson University

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

University of Missouri Science and Technology

 

Stiffness

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Lafayette College

University of Florida

 

Lightness

University of California, Davis

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

University of California, Berkeley

 

Economy

Clemson University

University of Missouri Science and Technology

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

 

Display

Youngstown State University

Lakehead University

Georgia Institute of Technology

 

Efficiency

University of California, Davis

University of Florida

University of Wisconsin Madison

 
 
Throughout the academic year, student teams work for months perfecting the design, fabrication and construction of each bridge. To reach the national event, each team must place among the top schools in one of 18 regional competitions held across the country each year. This year, about 200 college and university teams from the U.S., Canada and Mexico participated in the regional competitions.
 
"It's exciting to watch the next generation of structural engineers come together and work with such passion and enthusiasm," said Nancy Gavlin, AISC director of education. "The competition poses real-world challenges that the students face with ingenuity and professionalism."
 
The NSSBC is sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction in cooperation with the American Society of Civil Engineers and is co-sponsored by Bentley, DS SolidWorks, Nucor, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the National Steel Bridge Alliance, the James F. Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation, the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction, the Steel Structures Education Foundation and the American Galvanizers Association.
 
The complete competition rankings are available at www.nssbc.info. 
         
 

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