University of Florida team earns first-place at 2022 Student Steel Bridge Competition

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The University of Florida took home the overall first place prize at the 2022 Student Steel Bridge Competition National Finals at Virginia Tech, the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) said in a June 6 statement.

This year’s competition challenged students to design, fabricate, and construct a conceptual scaled steel bridge to serve as a hypothetical wildlife crossing over I-90 in Washington state. The bridges must have a deck truss design (so as not to deter wildlife with design elements above the surface) and they must have skewed piers and include a cantilever. They must be designed to support the weight of the green surface, wildlife, pedestrians, and maintenance and park vehicles. The rules did not allow any construction activity within the highway confines, to limit traffic interference.

Students across the country rose to the challenge and designed a broad array of ideas that would help wildlife safely cross I-90. After a series of regional competitions throughout the school year, 34 teams gathered over Memorial Day weekend to put their bridges to the test in the first in-person finals since 2019.

The Student Steel Bridge Competition is a partnership between the AISC and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).

“It was so wonderful to see these enthusiastic student engineers back in action,” said AISC senior director of education Christina Harber. “This year was quite different from pre-pandemic competitions because many students who held the institutional knowledge for their teams have graduated since the last in-person finals–in fact, most of the students competing this year were brand-new to the competition. They learned a lot and are excited to participate again next year, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they can do!”

“What an outstanding event—building bridges in every sense of the word,” said Tom Smith, executive director of ASCE. “My thanks and congratulations to AISC, Virginia Tech, and the many volunteers and student competitors who came together to advance technical and professional learning, while making connections that will last a lifetime.”

The team from the University of Florida earned particularly high marks for economy, speedy construction (just over five minutes with a build team of only two people!), efficiency, and stiffness. They also took home the Frank J. Hatfield Ingenuity Award, which goes to the team that shows the most engineering ingenuity in the design and/or construction of their bridge based on the requirements of the competition rules.

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