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KU steel bridge team prepares for engineering endeavor

Thu, 04/04/2013

LAWRENCE — A team of six University of Kansas School of Engineering students is putting the finishing touches on its entry for the 2013 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) steel bridge competition, set for April 4-6 on the campus of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Ill. 

Teams are challenged to construct a bridge that’s at least 19-inches high that can support up to 2,500 pounds. Teams earn higher point totals for how fast they assemble the bridge, how well it maintains stability when weight is applied, and how few team members assist during construction.

The Jayhawk team this year is bracing for longer construction times due to a significant rule change.

“ASCE this year closed a loophole and outlawed interlocking connections. In past competitions, teams built their bridge components to slide together and lock into place. The bolts between pieces were simply for show, so teams could just breeze through their construction. Now, teams will have to take time to bolt each piece and won’t be to simply lock everything tight on the fly,” said Zach Olson, team captain and a junior in civil engineering from Ellsworth.

Three people will work during the competition to construct KU’s bridge, which must support 1,500 pounds on its main span and an additional 1,000 pounds on a section known as a cantilever that extends without direct support at least 3 ½ feet over an area designated as a body of water. As weight is added, if the bridge shifts, slides or sags more than 1 inch, the team loses points.

“Our model says our bridge is extremely stiff, so we’re confident it will support the weight and we won’t get penalized,” Olson said. “Our main concern at this point is getting faster at assembling the bridge.  We’ve been practicing a lot over the last few days and have nearly cut our construction time in half.  We hope to be around 15 minutes during the competition, which should be a great time, especially since teams are no longer allowed to use interlocking pieces.”

KU is one of 12 teams heading to regionals. Placing in the top three will earn a spot at the national competition in late May at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“This is a super exciting project, especially for anyone in civil, architectural, structural engineering. It allows for a ton of creativity. We can dream up all kinds of ideas and see what works,” Olson said.  “It’s a great project and a great learning experience from concept to completion.”

 



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