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Cody Howard
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Steel bridge team prepares for regional event

Wed, 04/23/2014

LAWRENCE — Armed with new materials, deeper knowledge and solid engineering principles, expectations are high for a team of students from the University of Kansas School of Engineering as it prepares for an upcoming regional competition.

The Steel Bridge Team will compete in the American Society of Civil Engineers Mid-Continent Conference Regional Steel Bridge Competition hosted by Oklahoma State University starting Thursday, April 24, in Stillwater, Okla.

Teams are challenged to construct a bridge that’s 1-foot, 7-inches high, with a span of 17 feet that can support a minimum of 2,600 pounds. Teams can earn additional points by addressing a variety of factors such as reducing the weight of the bridge itself, assembling the bridge more quickly, using fewer team members to construct the bridge and increasing the stability of the bridge under heavier loads.

KU earned a spot at the national competition in 2013 after a top-three finish at regionals last year, and team leaders say that success provided them with invaluable experience as they gear up this year. Zach Olson, a senior in civil engineering and steel bridge team captain, said new information gleaned at the national competition enabled the 17 members of this year’s team to make several improvements.

“We made some big changes to our design,” Olson said. “Going to nationals last year helped us a ton. We got to see the materials other teams used – typically much smaller components that provide a lot more flexibility in construction.

“Historically, we’ve used steel from structural steel suppliers for our components, but it’s really hard to hunt down small pieces. At nationals, we saw other teams were using mechanical or aerospace tubes, which are much smaller in diameter. We’ve incorporated those, and it gives us a lot more precision at our connections and flexibility in how we use our material,” he said.

Though the team’s finish at regionals in 2013 was high enough to earn a trip to nationals, Olson said they’re setting their sights higher this time around.

“Our goal is to take first in the regional by a decent margin, because we saw last year that there was a gap between our region’s performance and the national field,” he said, noting KU finished 37th overall and was grouped in the final rankings with the other two qualifiers from the Mid-Continent region. “If we secure a solid first-place finish at regionals, I’m confident we could make a run at the top 10 in nationals."

Olson said aside from the thrill of competition, there are plenty of other benefits to getting involved in the steel bridge team.

“My first couple years at KU I was very focused on grades and didn’t really see how this type of experience would make me more marketable to a potential employer, but once I got involved, it’s easy to see how this translates to real-world experience. It’s a great opportunity to go beyond what you get in the classroom,” Olson said.

The national competition, which is co-sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction, is set for May 23-24 at the University of Akron, in Akron, Ohio.



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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here: http://bit.ly/1awodaa
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Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: http://bit.ly/1awodaa Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.


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