S&T Steel Bridge Team Performs Well In National Finals

S&T’s crew of three women and five guys sailed through the Steel Bridge Conference national finals in Gainesville Florida this afternoon. Five university teams go shoulder-to-shoulder simultaneously on the home court of the ’06 and ’07 national basketball champs.

Each group has to lay out all the bridge components on opposite ends of the "obstacle" over which each structure is to be as quickly and safely as possible.

Drop a bolt or step outside the red lines and you’ll "earn" penalty points. But mostly, speed is critical.

Weeks of rehearsal since the regional event allowed S&T to knock nearly three minutes off their assembly time, while other participating teams ring the arena’s upper decks breaking into applause when assembly teams make an impressive showing. And they did for the Miners.

Bolts get pounded into fittings and as each component is assembled the Miners yell "Stable" and move to the next assembly.

After that each group of river crossers carry the bridge to the deflection testing area. You don’t need sophisticated scales to tell which bridges are the heaviest, because you can see it in the faces of the students lucky enough to carry the bridges across the hardcourt.

Once they get their wind back they use weights and pulleys to test lateral deflection, then load big hunks of 50 lb angle iron evenly on the bridge decks.
Your bridge doesn’t collapse? Good! Because now you (or more accurately the judges) can measure the vertical deflection (that’s SAGGING for you liberal arts guys out there serving fries) of each structure.

The last task is to haul your team’s product to the scales to see just how much it actually weighs.
To give you an idea of how important weight is, there were reports of a team that had used non-steel (aluminum?) bolts in a few places, and were found out by magnetic sweeps. We imagine the shear strength of such bolts would approximate that of undercooked pasta. Anyway, we didn’t see (or hear) any bridges collapse.
Team rankings are kept secret until tonight’s awards dinner, and we’ll report on that as soon as the team wander back to the hotel pool.