Steel Driving Women

SUN_6066Spring Break means little to the women of S&T’s Steel Bridge Design Team. They’d sooner be cutting and forming I-beams.

April Fool’s day is ignored because there’s serious work at hand. Sarah Jemison, Miranda (Randi) Cory, and the men who work for them must design, build and test a new weight-bearing bridge in less than a month.

Need more pressure? Randi is helping organize the ASCE Midcontinent Student Conference hosted by Missouri S&T. Better known as the Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe competition, it’s coming to Rolla April 21st-23rd for the first time in nearly twenty years. The Miner bridge and canoe crews have risen to the challenge of juggling jobs, classes, building their projects and managing the entire event. They’re determined to set a hospitality standard that will never be eclipsed, even by those “big” schools.DSC_6578 (1)
Back to emergency bridge design, S&T’s initial structure failed load testing during St Pat’s week, mimicking one school’s designs famous for collapsing under the weight of their own self-importance (according to a K-State wag). For the host school to withdraw from the event would be, uh, embarrassing in the extreme. Miners would never let that happen. DSC_6568They’re taking inspiration from Jermy Jamison’s 2014 winning team by switching to a modified I-beam design. That meant finding the steel FAST, while hammering out design details in late-night meetings and cutting steel with the Design Center’s new five-axis water jet machine.
DSC_5255Both civil engineering-based teams have strong contingents of women. Miranda is the president of the Steel Bridge Team. Concrete Canoe is led by a guy (Justin Turley) but with 53% of the team women, he’s outnumbered. Who, by the way, dominated last year womens’ sprint race.

Celebrating St. Pat’s

DSC_5210 - Version 2 (3)Yeah, there’s a parade, green-painted streets, couches on lawns complete with loud music and miscellaneous empty glass and aluminum containers scattered about, and two days of “independent study” in lieu of classes.
DSC_5289 (1)

So what? On St Patrick’s day, in a corner of the Kummer Student Center life went on, work went on, even if the workers were “greened up.”
In a madhouse of motion the Mars Rover Team was firing up Zenith’s new carbon fiber and Plexiglas “tires” before heading to a local quarry that stands in for the Red Planet’s surface. Four hours of playing in the dirt revealed some communication errors, but their new “tires” did well.
DSC_5143Solar Car burned through a lot of 400 grit sandpaper trying to perfect the molds for their first-ever monocoque race car. They’ve abandoned 17+ years of building tubular frames in favor of a structural exoskeleton, and that means a stiff learning curve as they head into a new direction. Speaking of new directions the 2016 American Solar Challenge will leapfrog it’s way through national parks from Ohio to the Badlands of South Dakota this summer to help mark the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
DSC_5107 (1)The steel bridge crew held a pizza-fueled strategy session in the Innovation Suite while the concrete canoe team used St. Paddy’s day to add a green stripe to this year’s watercraft and inlaid a line of shamrocks in the boat’s floor. They’re going the extra mile because S&T is hosting the concrete canoe and steel bridge competitions this year. Design team members are going all-out to make the 2016 Mid Continent Student Conference the standard against which all future host schools will be judged. And fall short they will. When over 300 guests from other schools see S&T’s Student Design and Experiential Learning Center, its fleet of support vehicles, massive manufacturing facilities, and crack(ed) professional support staff, look for the Miner admissions office to see a flood of transfer applications from the surrounding states.

The Best Birthday Present EVER!

And the story behind it…

Let us first introduce to you, Richard Dalton, shop and safety operations manager at S&T’s Student Design and Experiential Learning Center.

Richard has a slightly mellow personality, but he shoulders tremendous responsibility at the center. He teaches dozens of technical and safety classes, oversees OrgSync and all the sophisticated software needed to design student projects, buys (or steals) and maintains a barn full of lathes, mills, grinders, welders, and composite layup equipment, machines that well-meaning (but inexperienced) students seem to trash as fast as he can fix it.

Richard also teaches truck/trailer drivers’ education classes after normal(?) duty hours. It’s a wonder he hasn’t burst a blood vessel trying to show students how to back up a 28-foot trailer, or park a big dually pickup truck. Stressful at best…

He’s a master mechanic, superb machinist and even built his own home. A computer/IT wizard, YouTube aficionado, and has been deployed to Afganistan with the Army Reserve.

DSC_7810His office is his inner sanctum, his personal retreat where few are welcome. It’s home to several video monitors, his personal tool set, and the occasional canoe when things get too crowded in the shop. It’s even been known to house a few hundred plastic Easter eggs lovingly placed where it’ll take him months to find them.


DSC_3246Many months ago, Richard’s very expensive and custom-fitted office chair went missing. He was very “close” to that chair and distraught when it disappeared, as similar chairs just wouldn’t “fit.” There were rumors it rolled away DSC_6536 (1) on its own, to go “find itself” and travel the world. Sightings were reported all over the western U.S., often in the vicinity of traveling S&T design teams it was said.
But it never resurfaced.

Fast forward to Irvine, California with the Solar House Design Team and their Nest Home at the Solar Decathlon; high-energy house reassembly under strict time constraints. Richard absolutely WOWED the students with his skills, enthusiasm and experience, and with his birthday on the horizon the students were desperate to show their appreciation to “’Mater,” as he’s known on campus. What to do?

The house has to be furnished, right? What if, just IF, they could find the errant furniture, wouldn’t it be great to bring it “home”? If they COULD recover it, how could they possibly sneak it into the Nest Home as a proper surprise? What on-hand equipment could they use?

Well, there IS that big crane sitting right outside, and since Richard (that’s him on the left) was busy talking……….

And THAT is the story of the best birthday present EVER!

P.S. Too bad the crane operator wouldn’t haul him up about 100 ft. Stupid OSHA rules…..

It’s Springtime In The Ozarks!

The dogwoods are blooming, turtles are crossing the road en masse, thunderstorms are brewing and S&T’s design teams are on the road. SolarCarDSC_6875
A revitalized solar car team took a weekend training run on the Licking race circuit, aka US highway 63. They’re wringing out Solar Miner VIII to make sure the battery management system is doing its critical job. SolCarDSC_6824Cloudy weather, road kill and brittle battery tabs limited the car to a mere 90 miles, but before long they’ll wire in the new, and much more energy dense battery pack.

Tomorrow morning four teams head out to intercollegiate competitions. Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe head to KU at Lawrence, KS for the ASCE Mid-continent student conference while two other groups head to drought-plagued California; Human Powered Vehicle to San Jose and Advanced Aero Vehicle Group/SAE Aero to Van Nuys. The HPVC team will debut Leviathan, the amazing leaning recumbent trike. We’ve seen other vehicles made up as cattle, but never has a team showed up with a sea monster beautifully painted on their bike, trike, or whatever.

The Miners have built their best boat in years and dubbed it (cue Star Wars theme) Joebi-Wan Canoebe. A concrete cross-section is nestled in R2-D2’s belly and miniature TIE fighters make the cutest little materials containers you ever saw.

Steel Bridge’s over-arch design is a radical departure from last year’s winning entry. It’s much lighter and there’re holding last-minute practice this evening.

Tonight’s a packing frenzy. Loading gear, checking lists for the 10th time, just another evening on a design team.

Stay tuned for more anecdotes and pics. It’s gonna be a busy weekend!

Exams Are Over!

Many design team members have graduated and parlayed their team experience into graduate school opportunities or well-paying jobs, but the competition season rumbles on.

Next week Steel Bridge heads to Akron, Ohio for the SB Nationals. Jermy Jamison’s crew has been practicing, practicing and practicing, and we’re told they’ve trimmed more than a minute from their assembly time and that translates into higher scores.

Tomorrow afternoon the S&T Baja! Team packs up and heads to Pittsburg, Kansas for the first of two off-road design competitions. Joining them is the team from the University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil which set up a temporary home at S&T last week. In 2011 Paulo Yamagata’s USP crew helped christen the new Kummer Center so this year is a reunion of old friends and fellow gear-heads.

While the rest of campus is quiet the SDELC shop is humming. And snoring.
The week before completion is full of sleepless nights, and it’s beginning to take a toll on Miners and guests alike. Team camaraderie and cars are tested to the limit as a year’s worth of effort begins to produce results. Sleep deprivation can produce bizarre behaviors; tempers can flare or the silly season takes over. Both are part and parcel of managing people and morale.

At the same time the Mars Rover Design Team hauls Phoenix to Hanksville, Utah for their second crack at desert operations. Mechanical lead Ian Lee’s group has produced a masterpiece of form and function, but it’s not been without a cost in physical exhaustion (above).

Some people believe that taking advantage of another when the victim is at their most vulnerable is unfair, classless and humiliating. Others fully understand that making fun of the ones you respect and admire builds camaraderie, that making your buddy’s life hell is like saying “We Love You!”
We’ll let you be the judge of which is the case here.


SBTeamSUN_1201GREAT NEWS! We just heard that the S&T Steel Bridge took 1st place overall and won stiffness, efficiency and economy! The ‘Roos of UMKC edged out the Miners for fastest assembly time but S&T countered with 3rd in display out of 14 regional teams. Scoring is done in dollars not points, as the event is based on a hypothetical “bid” to ramp up these scale bridges to the real thing.

Missouri S&T – $11,205,000
Illinois-Edwardsville – $13,735,833
Kansas State – $39,985,000
UMKC – $40,407,500
Oklahoma – $42,927,500
Oklahoma State – Disqualified
OSU Institute of Technology – Didn’t do it
Saint Louis University – Not a prayer
Illinois- Carbondale – Nada
Arkansas – Hog tied
Kansas – Didn’t fly
Mizzou – The Tigers used a great-looking bridge to edge out the Nebraska schools
Nebraska – Lincoln – Too bad
Nebraska – Omaha – Anchor Man

They’ll stick around until Saturday to cheer on the Concrete Canoe Team, and head home to make travel plans for the Student Steel Bridge Competition NATIONALS!

Just Because It’s Steel……..

Doesn’t mean it’ll work, but more on that* shortly.

BridgeDSC_2856 - Version 2The Miners were second out of the assembly gate this morning, with KU getting the nod to start. Jermy Jamison’s three-member crew sailed nearly flawlessly through the assembly race and easily passed all the clearance measurements. Lateral testing and deflection? Perfect!

KU appears to have assembled their bridge as quickly as, or even faster than S&T, but lost points when the bottom of their structure was just a tiny bit low. The Jayhawks started to load their bridge with the requisite 2,400 lbs of dead-weight steel, but just 100lbs shy of full load there was a tremendous BANG!, and the venue became suddenly very quiet. *KU’s bridge folded up like an accordion but oddly enough stayed in one complete piece. A 17-foot-long zig-zag piece. Mizzou’s bridge looks good but exceeded allowable deflection and is out of medal contention.





Plenty more action this afternoon, so drop back in about 4 hours or so. Let give a quick salute to Oklahoma State, who’s doing a stellar job of hosting the Mid-Continet Student Conference!

It’s The Crazy Season!

Student design competitions are in full swing. Bright and early tomorrow starts the Steel Bridge contest, followed just a day later by the Concrete Canoe event, both in Stillwater, OK. The ’14 S&T bridge is a stunning example of design simplicity that takes but three students to assemble in under 10 minutes. The Route 66-themed The Mother Rowed canoe has so far overcome some pretty serious cracks after a critical pour component didn’t arrive in time. If it survives the trailer ride to OSU country, it should be OK.

Overlapping those two events is the ASME West Coast Human Powered Vehicle Competitions, two time zones to the west in San Jose, CA. The road rash on Peter Freiberger’s carbon-fiber masterpiece has been repaired, and the endurance race will be held on an old-fashioned velodromes so hay bales and overly-aggressive riding should be less of a problem.

FASEDC3SUN_0991In the midst of all this chaos Rolla’s flashiest and most consistent team, Formula SAE, has carved out some asphalt of their own at the Rolla National Airport. Nights, weekends, rain or shine they’ve been testing, testing, testing. Another 10 days or so and the full aero package will be ready while the body-panels-of-many-colors will give way to one of the flashiest machines of the 400+ teams that run in these events world-wide.

In other news, Phoenix, the Mars Rover Design Team’s freshly-unveiled machine was rolling on its own late last night, and Saturday’s Illinois test of the Advanced Aero Vehicle Groups monster rocket was a good one. Most components worked as designed, nothing broke, and they got all the pieces back. Not a bad day’s work.

Lastly, from the Conde’ Nast travel guide. You’re probably in the wrong hotel if your toilet has a sign on the tank telling you not to drink the water. The advance party for Human Powered Vehicle sent us this travel tidbit tonight:

“Is it really necessary to tell hotel occupants not to drink out of the toilet? Really?”

Time To Get Civil.

S&T has two civil engineering-focused design teams, and both hit the road exactly one week from now.

BRidge2SUN_8974Steel Bridge packs up a 1/10th –scale bridge that is assembled by just three students in a race against the clock, then has to support 2,500 lbs of dead weight. Without flexing too much. The past weeks it’s been test, modify, practice and do it all again. Learn not to drop bolts lest ye be docked critical assembly seconds. Hand off each section with great precision so the ironworkers drop it into place just right.

Concrete Canoe is a 300-lb, single-piece project that if all goes well remains in one piece. A week ago the team “birthed” The Mother Rowed, a Route 66-themed watercraft made of lightweight(?) concrete. Not the stuff that goes into driveways and sidewalks, but a purpose-designed mixture for a narrowly-defined and somewhat iffy engineering application.CanoeDSC_1990“Mother” was molded on an upside-down form that could only be extracted when the whole assembly was carefully flipped over, a task that calls for lots of team work. More accurately, a lot of teams work.

Solution? Yell out “Everybody! Drop what you’re doing and get over here!” In seconds Mars Rover, Solar Car, AAVG Rocket, and Baja students jumped in and under Erin Bolling’s direction, carefully lifted and rolled the monster over. Simple, quick, and efficient; that’s the joy of having teams working together. They work in the broadest sense, using skills, cooperation, and a great attitude to help each other.

How’s the canoe look? Wellllllllllll, let’s hope for smooth sailing on the road to Stillwater OK. Concrete cracks, and it cracked a lot when the form was removed. While duct tape may be a solution, “Mother” looks much like Old Route 66, with bigger cracks bigger than planned or expected. It’s gonna take some creative work to get boat ready to go. The real risk comes from rough roads. Or dropping the boat. Let’s hope for neither.

We are going to Nationals!!

Below is a wonderful letter from Sarah Padgett, leader of S&T’s Steel Bridge Team. Those who have watched this team design, build, test and practice/practice/practice know what a wonderful group of, as Sarah says, “people and engineers” this team is built from.
I am extremely pleased to announce that Missouri S&T’s Steel Bridge Team was incredibly successful at the Mid Student ASCE Conference. We took 1st place in Economy, 1st place in Construction Speed, 2nd place in Efficiency, and a very, very close 2nd Overall to K-State. We will meet them again at the National Competition.
I could not be more proud of all our members who made this bridge possible. You spent those countless hours thinking, planning, and doing. We woke up early and went to bed late. We stayed in the shop long after we were supposed to leave. We sacrificed our school breaks. We studied long into the night so that we could give more to our team. We spent hours designing and optimizing. We worked through our differences constructively. We were never afraid and as such, we can always say that we, as a team, made a final product that we can be proud of for the rest of our lives.
Everyone at competition behaved with the grace and kindness of people far beyond the typical maturity level of college students. Thank you for your resilience and flexibility in the face of unanticipated problems. An extra thank you to drivers and navigators–without you we would have gotten nowhere.
The leaders and I will come up with a list of those that we believe the team should pay for to attend competition. That will largely be based on finances because you all deserve to attend competition for what you have brought to this team. The latest is will be announced is at the General Meeting this Thursday. It is very important that you attend or read the minutes. From there, we will decide the logistics of how to get everyone there and who else from the team would like to go with the understanding that they would pay there own way.
It has been and continues to be my honor to work with you as people and engineers.
Thank you,

Now it’s on to Seattle, May 31st – June 1st!