Steel Bridge Team Comes Home With Two 1st-Place Awards

The Steel Bridge Team went up against other top teams in the ASCE’s Mid-Continent Conference last week, one of five S&T teams to attend design events on the same weekend.
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The Miners earned 1st place in the Aesthetics category, meaning they had the best looking bridge at the event, and also brought home the trophy for best Display, the way they configured their components for inspection. Setting up properly is crucial to team success in the assembly phase, the mad dash to convert two crates of parts into a viable structure. Teams have a limited time in which they must assemble the bridge in a safe and effective manner. Should they drop a tool or commit an unsafe act they are assigned a time penalty which counts against them in the final scoring.
Steel Bridge 09 #5.jpgOnce the bridge is assembled and weighed it is loaded with 2,500 lbs of steel to see if it does what a bridge is supposed to do, support a lot of weight. Rolla’s bridge passed lateral deflection without issues, but fell just 75 lbs shy of the load requirement before the bridge exceeded the allowable vertical deflection, and the team dropped out of the running. This means the team won’t be returning to the nationals again this year, but the upside is that they’ll save on travel money and have a good nest egg for next year’s event.

Steel Bridge Presentation Ranks High

The Missouri S&T Steel Bridge Team’s long-awaited return to the national finals went well for the group, as they placed in the top third ranking in the presentation category. Now this is not the usual verbal powerpoint ‘presentation’ so beloved by all. Instead "presentation" (or display) is how cool your bridge looks.

S&T’s fabulous gold and silver color scheme harkens back to the Miners’ school colors of Au and Ag on the Table of Elements.

Of course silver and gold are dug from the ground, and since that’s what miners do, it was a natural choice that earned them 12th place out of 42. They did pay something of a price for their overall design in the other categories, such as as stiffness, weight, economy and speed of assembly, most of which ranked in the mid-30th places. S&T’s final ranking was 34th overall against pretty strong competition, and that was not bad after a multi-year absence from the nationals.
Now, with 42 teams on hand there are going to be many different design approaches in each of the categories. Other teams pay careful attention to color, while others……………………………………..

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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.

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.

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Bridge builders

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This is S&T’s 2008 Steel Bridge Team, which qualified for nationals this weekend. Details are available several posts back, so you might want to scroll down. OK. Back to human-powered vehicle action after this….

Steel Bridge Team Qualifies for Nationals

The Steel Bridge team has qualified for nationals! When the final results were finally tallied from Friday’s regional competition in Fayetteville, Ark., Missouri S&T ended up in third place overall. The top three regional teams qualify for the national competition in Gainesville, Fla., on Memorial Day weekend. UMKC finished first at the regional and K-State finished second. Arkansas finished behind S&T in fourth.
There were 11 teams competing in Arkansas. Missouri S&T relied on consistency in the individual judging events to make a strong overall showing. S&T finished fourth in construction speed, third in lightness, third in display, fourth in stiffness, third in economy and fourth in efficiency.
This is directly from an email sent by team leader Levi Smith:

The rules stated that two teams from a regional can compete at nationals if there are 10 teams at the regional competition, and 3 teams can go to nationals if 11 teams compete. Oklahoma State was going to drop out because they couldnt construct within the rules, but we let them borrow our temporary pier for construction, which allowed them to compete, bringing the team total to 11, which allowed the 3rd place team go to the national competition, which luckily turned out to be us. Anyway we still hope to improve and do better than UMKC and k-state, and try to place top 10 at nationals.

Bridge to Arkansas

Steel Bridge Team
Pictured above are Missouri S&T’s women of steel (and one man): Lisa Stine, Amanda Wyatt and Kierstyn Harvey with Erik Lorince.

Thursday’s steel bridge competition in Fayetteville, Ark., went well. Late Thursday, team spokesperson Levi Smith said team members were happy with their performance, but the final results were not yet available. (It didn’t sound like Missouri S&T would place at the very top.) The event was held at the Tyson Track Center on the campus of the University of Arkansas, where all of the new buildings are named after chickens, pigs or Wal-Mart. Following a long day setting up their bridge and tearing it down, the team members were planning on dinner at the Flying Burrito followed by bowling at Ozark Lanes. If they get any free time, we suggest a trip to the used bookstore downtown. (We judge it as possibly the second-best used bookstore in the country, topped, of course, by Powell’s in Portland, Ore.)
Fayetteville is green and hilly and very southern. It’s similar to Rolla, only bigger and the old parts have a lot better architecture. We highly recommend a visit. We’ll try to get some final results on the steel bridge competition Friday, which marks the start of another competition, this one involving concrete canoes. The famous "swamp test" is in the morning (we think), followed by racing on Saturday. So far, no sightings of the Arkansas canoe, which was, really famously, called "The Hogtanic" last year. More reports to follow.

Steel bridges and wood paneling

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The Steel Bridge Team is competing right now (photo by Bob Phelan) in a regional event at KU. The idea is to design the best bridge possible (scaled down in size, of course) — but the teams must also be able to put their bridges together and tear them back down as efficiently as possible. A number of tests are run on the bridges. As a source close to the UMR team tells us:

They were allowed a maximum deflection of 2.00 inches. They achieved 1.95 inches. That’s a little too close for comfort. Or maybe very nearly perfect engineering.

We’ll have the final results from Lawrence, home of the Chickenhawks, on Monday. But before we leave you — get a load of that paneling in the background of the photo above. Maybe they just got done hosting a macrame convention or something?
P.S. Did you know that Lawrence is also the home of the great Bill James and the late William Burroughs?