Chris Cho, center, and members of the Viterbi School steel bridge team, assemble their masterpiece, a 21-foot long, 220-pound truss bridge.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for students to share in the practical experience of taking concepts and information taught in their engineering classes and putting it to use,” said Raman Unnikrishnan, dean of the hosting College of Engineering and Computer Science at Cal State Fullerton. “This provides valuable
Joel Waters, who was on the construction team, uses a band saw to sculpt pieces of the bridge.
The design competition tests the skills of civil engineering students from colleges
and universities across the country who are learning the benefits and challenges
of using prefabricated steel in bridge construction, said USC’s John Caffrey,
a research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, who served
as the team’s faculty advisor. In addition to the competition, students also have
a chance to meet new people, see other schools and apply their design skills.
The students take the competition seriously. For months beforehand, Viterbi School team co-captains Patrick Maguire, a senior civil engineering major, and Chris Cho, a junior civil engineering major, welded, hammered and cut steel strips into small, prefabricated pieces that would be fastened together during competition. Fifteen civil and environmental engineering students worked on the bridge this year, fashioning all of the steel pieces to fit in a box that’s only 3’6” x 6” x 6”. Although they were allowed to weld and bolt their pieces together in the prefabrication phase, they were only able to connect the pieces with nuts and bolts during the competition.
Co-captain Patrick Maguire welds a section of the truss.
“This year our design was a single span truss bridge that's fairly heavy, but
exceedingly strong, and could be built quickly,” said Maguire, who was on last
year’s team as well. “It was heavier than some of the other bridges, but it deflected
less than one-tenth of an inch under a load of 2,500 pounds of weight.”
According to the PSWRC rules, students were able to design and scale any type of single span bridge. Single span bridges have only two sets of footings. The competition called for a bridge that would span an imaginary river 21 feet from bank to bank. Students were given a site plan and elevation map of the river valley in which the bridge was to be built. Maguire’s team picked a truss design that stood about 5-to-6 feet tall and 4 feet wide when it was finished.
“Suspension, truss or beam bridges were all viable options,” Maguire said. “According to PSWRC rules, the bridge itself was to be a support structure for steel decking, which would simulate a roadway.”
Amanda Merrick, also on the construction team, uses a drill press during fabrication.
Chris Cho and Kathryne Ceballos fasten two top pieces together
The first and second place teams from the regional contests will compete in the national competition, to be held May 27-28 at Central Florida University in Orlando.