Miners Spend Memorial Day in Florida Building Bridges

After a long year of study at one of the nation’s top technology-based schools, you can’t blame the Miners for blasting off to the Florida beaches for some serious R&R. Instead of pushing sand through their toes S&T’s Steel Bridge Team will be wearing hard hats and twirling wrenches at the National Student Steel Bridge competition in Gainesville, Florida this weekend.

The Miners qualified for the national finals with a strong showing at the Arkansas regionals last month, and have been rehearsing for the big show ever since. Each of the 42 teams crowding the O’Connell Center’s indoor track had set up their bridges today for the aesthetics judging. What looked like a giant game of pick-up-sticks was quickly transformed into a lace-like series of steel cobwebs.

After that everyone spent their time checking on their competitors’ design skills and workmanship, and swapping ideas while the judges skulked about. While today was just the display element and aesthetic judging (thus no hard hats), tomorrow each team has to assemble their bridge over a fictitious water barrier within a very specific time limit and points are deducted for dropped parts or tools or any unsafe act. Then the team moves the assembled bridge to a second area and must load 2,500lbs of steel onto the bridge deck to prove that their projects are not just Ozarks-style lawn ornaments and can actually do the job of a bridge.

The rules allow just a smidgen (that’s an engineering term) of deflection when fully loaded or your bridge is out of the running. Should the bridge, uh, collapse, the Florida Gators (the university, not the big lizard) claim to have a very aggressive steel recycling program that should save the unlucky team the cost of shipping the wreckage back home.

So far there are no scores posted on the aesthetic event, but the best info we have is rumored to come from a student (looking over a judge’s shoulder) who says S&T has earned a high mark of 8.2 out of 10.
A little, eh, unofficial, but you read it here first.

And what is a little friendly competition without a few practical jokes? We hear that Georgia Tech has been plagued with "missing" bolts, and someone has swiped an "E" from their hard hat. That brings up the old saying that you can’t spell "geek" without a "Double E".