RPI students compete in steel bridge competition

From Thursday afternoon to Saturday evening, 10 members of the Steel Bridge Team, including myself, attended the Upstate New York American Society of Civil Engineers Regionals Conference. The conference consisted of competitions for building of steel bridges and racing of concrete canoes.

Thirteen schools competed in the bridge competition, and seven in the canoe competition. Schools included several State University of New York campuses, Hudson Valley Community College, and several Canadian schools; yes, Canadian schools attend ASCE conferences!

Rensselaer hosted only a steel bridge team this year due to a lack of interest in the canoe team. In fact, on Sunday, April 30 from 2–4 pm, past concrete canoe team members are holding an event at the Grafton Lake. Feel free to go visit the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department Office on the fourth floor of the Jonsson Engineering Center for more details.

The Steel Bridge team this year consisted of five designers and six builders. The Design Team members took a two-credit independent class in the fall in which they fully design a steel bridge, and in the spring the build team practices putting it together as efficiently as possible. Both teams must follow hundreds of rules in order to qualify throughout all stages of the competition—building, lateral load testing, and vertical load testing.

Rensselaer was the third team to build on Friday morning. The timer began and the builders were off, only to be stopped 10 seconds later! The judges questioned the way construction began with not setting the footing of the bridge first. This delay caused the team to huddle together and generate a new plan—one that was never practiced.

After 15 minutes of brainstorming, the Engineers were ready, and were off to the races again. A half hour later, the judges yelled out “that’s 30 minutes, no rules apply anymore,” including dropping any nuts or bolts. The Engineers continued to race to be under the 45 minute mark, as if any team goes over this time mark, the bridge is instantly disqualified. The Engineers completed construction in a little over 43 minutes.

The sweat and the condensation in the safety goggles, in addition to the unexpected change in building plans, left the team in some disappointment. One of the judges came up to the team after and congratulated us for rebounding back quickly and working together as a team the entire time.

Team member Daneel Ruppert ’20 recalls on his experience, saying that “It’s intimidating to be around all these teams that know a lot, but it was fun to build the bridge and get it done.” The intense competition in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University was summarized as “definitely tough there for a while, but I guess we powered through it,” according to Anna Tiberi ’20.

Design Captain Devan Naik ’17 has been with the team for the last four years and stepped up because “no one else did. This has been a great learning experience, better than any class I have ever taken.” The other four members of the design team are Lillian Kolehmainen ’17, Pete Weekes ’17, Julia McNamara ’18, and Sabata Dalia ’17. The build team consisted of James Hemond ’20, Mouctar Bah ’19, captain Tim Cremins ’19, and Maria Kozdroy ’18.

The Engineers look forward to next year’s competition at RPI!