Mizzou’s Steel Bridge team racked up three awards at the 2018 Mid-Continent Student Conference, including a third-place overall achievement.
The Southern Illinois University-Carbondale-hosted event was held April 19-22, and welcomed MU’s 16-member team. Organizing sponsors included the American Institute of Steel Construction and American Society of Civil Engineers.
The mission statement calls the student project experience an opportunity to “increase awareness of real world engineering issues, such as spatial constraints, material properties, strength, serviceability, fabrication and erection processes, safety, esthetics, project management and cost.”
After spending their fall semester designing the bridge, the past few months have been dedicated to bringing that concept to life. After arriving for the competition, it comes time to show off their skills for judging.
“The first thing a school will do at competition is assemble the bridge,” MU Steel Bridge team member Neil Michalak said. “The judges see how long it takes, and then they take that time and they bring your bridge over to weigh it. They see how light it is.”
According to Michalak, they then load and swing a 75-pound weight from the bridge to test how it deflects laterally.
“If it’s more than an inch, you’re disqualified,” he said.
They also test it vertically, adding 2,500 pounds and testing its deflection, which cannot be more than four inches.
“When you assemble your bridge, you have to assemble it in certain zones,” Michalak said, discussing the process. “The legs of the bridge have to be on the footing template on the ground; the bridge can’t touch the ground outside of that footing.”
Other guidelines include not dropping tools and following general dimension requirements.
“The bridge has to be between 17 and 18 feet long,” he said.
At the conclusion of the four-day event, MU’s Steel Bridge team was awarded third-place finishes for bridge construction time, economy and overall. Their impressive assembly time was 18 minutes, 48 seconds. Their bridge economy award is calculated by multiplying number of people it took to build the bridge, which was six, by how long it took to build the bridge by a price point.
“They multiply it by $70,000 because in the grand scheme of things, this is supposed to replicate a real-life project where a bunch of companies are bidding on who’s going to construct the bridge,” Michalak said. “Your goal is to be the company that can do it the cheapest. In theory, that would mean building it the fastest with the fewest amount of people, because that would save money, and that’s the end goal.”