2009 National Student Steel Bridge Competition



Bentley is proud to be a sponsor of the 2009 ASCE/AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition (NSSBC). The competition, this year hosted by University of Nevada, Las Vegas on May 22nd-23rd, allows students to tackle a real-world challenge and then put their designs through stringent tests. As a national sponsor, Bentley offered not only financial support for the competition, but also distributed free software (MicroStation and STAAD.Pro V8i) and tutorials to all participating ASCE Student Chapters last fall.

Approximately 200 universities took part in the qualifying competitions, at eighteen ASCE Student Conferences, with top ranked teams in each region then invited to compete at the national level. I was pleased to attend the 18th annual NSSBC, to witness the products of students' skills in steel design, fabrication, scheduling, and management, and also to discover what they learned working as part of a design team.

47 teams participated in NSSBC this year, filling the floor of the Thomas and Mack Center at UNLV. May 22nd was devoted to set up and display judging of the scale model bridges. While everyone eagerly checked out their competitors, there was an air of camaraderie born of a common challenge and shared goals. The teams then disassembled their bridges in preparation for the next day.

On Saturday, May 23rd the competition swung into high gear, with Construction and then Load Testing. At five build stations, 3-5 team members painstakingly laid out the components of their bridges-from tools, to beams, to nuts and bolts-and then waited for the judges to start the clock. In turn, each team sprinted back and forth from their components to the construction area, vying to build their bridge in record time. With the frantic pace and whir of electric tools, the construction teams were akin to Nascar pit crews fighting to beat the clock. In this case, however, the crew starts from a blank slate, without even their tool belts in place until the clock starts. Amazingly enough, SUNY Canton was able to build their bridge in only 3 ½ minutes!

After the judges evaluated the construction and recorded the official time (adding any penalties), each team moved their bridge to the Load Testing stations. Two pieces of decking were put in place on each bridge (the location chosen by a roll of the dice at the beginning of the competition, to ensure unpredictable loading) and 100 lbs. were added to each deck.

Next, 1150 additional pounds of weight were added to the left deck, while checking for sway and deflection. If the bridge did not exceed a one inch sway in either direction, or a two inch deflection downward at any of the deflection targets, then another 1150 pounds were added to the right deck. Thus, these scale model bridges are tested under a total load of 2,500 pounds.

Each bridge is ultimately judged on the following steel design requirements: display, construction speed, lightness (lowest total weight), stiffness (lowest aggregate deflection), economy (lowest construction cost), and efficiency.

All 47 bridges offered ample evidence that the next generation of structural engineers are more than well equipped to help design and sustain the world's infrastructure.

The 2009 National Student Steel Bridge Competition's overall winners are as follows:
1. SUNY College of Technology at Canton
2. North Dakota State University
3. Lakehead University

Congratulations to all of the participating teams, for jobs well done!

You can read more about this competition at http://www.aisc.org/steelbridge




  • Nice article.  Really great to see what these students have done using the latest technology.  It is not easy to will all three categories of this competition without proper design, planning, and team work.    Our products can definitely help them achieve these goals if used correctly.