On May 27-28, Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) hosted the 2016 ASCE/AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition.

The competition—which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year—strives to support engineering education via a comprehensive, real-world student project that includes structural design, fabrication, construction planning and execution, and load testing. Teamwork and project management are essential in this intercollegiate competition, to produce a scale model bridge that satisfies stringent requirements in the categories of stiffness, lightness, construction speed, display, efficiency, and economy.

The Bentley Institute is pleased to continue as a national sponsor for the eighth year, providing not only financial support but also free STAAD.Pro software and learning materials to all participating teams (see the 2016 NSSBC sponsorship blog).

The rules of the Student Steel Bridge Competition change annually, simulating a request for proposal and resulting in a 1:10 scaled steel bridge model that demonstrates the merits of each participating ASCE student chapter’s design and construction plan.

This year 223 teams from the United States, Canada, Mexico, China and the United Arab Emirates tackled the challenge and competed in the 2016 Student Steel Bridge Competitions, held during regional ASCE Student Conferences.

48 of those teams earned an invitation to the national finals, as the 2016 NSSBC Qualifying Teams.

The 2016 NSSBC began on Friday, May 27 with team registration, bridge set up, and display judging. The opening day had a festival mood, as teams mingled while they scrutinized every detail of their competitors’ bridges.


The event then kicked into high gear on Saturday, May 28 with the construction competition, which involved timed builds and structural testing. First, the designated builders from each team carefully placed each individual tool and component in the staging area. Strategy is essential, to achieve the complimentary goals of having both the fastest build time and the lowest building cost; while more team members increase construction speed, they also result in higher construction costs.


The judges kept a close eye on each team’s builders, as they raced the clock to construct their bridge—while attempting to avoid any penalties. One piece at a time, students ran components of their bridge over to the builders, who scrambled to construct their bridge as quickly as possible.

This year University of Wisconsin, Platteville won the construction speed category, with a lightning-fast time of 2.62 minutes (besting last year’s fastest time of 4.00 minutes by a comfortable margin)!

After the judges evaluated the construction of each bridge, deemed it sound, and recorded the official time (adding any penalties), each team moved their bridge to the first load testing station. There, the students applied a standardized lateral load test. Decking was placed at the center of the span and 75 pounds were added to the decking; a 50 lb. lateral pull was applied at deck level, and the sway must not exceed 1 inch.

Presuming the lateral load test was passed, each bridge then proceeded to the vertical load test. Two sections of decking were added at specified locations (unknown until that day), and three vertical deflection targets were set.

50 pounds preload were added to each decking unit, and then gradually a total load of 2,500 pounds was applied to the bridge. Sway cannot exceed 1 inch, and deflection cannot be more than 3 inches downward on any target.

These tests are designed to be rigorous, because the rules simulate the same requirements that dictate the design and construction of full-scale bridges, including standards for strength, durability, constructability, usability, functionality, and safety.

The final stop for each bridge was the weigh station. This year’s lightest bridge was University of Florida’s at just 113 pounds.

Each bridge was ultimately judged on the following categories: display, construction speed, lightness (lowest total weight), stiffness (lowest aggregate deflection), construction economy (lowest construction cost), and structural efficiency.

If you haven’t already seen our posts about the 2016 NSSBC on Facebook, live from the competition….

The winners of the 2016 ASCE/AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition are:

 1st place: École de technologie supérieure


2nd place: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo


3rd place: University of Florida


All of the participating teams are to be congratulated for their dedication, hard work, and for jobs well done!

You can read more about the competition at http://www.aisc.org/steelbridge, and view details of the full 2016 results at www.nssbc.info.