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UW CEE Steel Bridge Team’s strong finish

May 23, 2017

The build team The build team immediately after assembling the bridge: Chris Halamek, Philip Yu, Ryan Bradford and Martha Quigg, from left. Photo credit: Dale Quigg


The UW CEE Steel Bridge Team had, appropriately enough, a strong finish at the 2017 ASCE/AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition- PCN Regionals at Boise State University in April. Out of 14 teams, UW CEE placed eighth overall and also took third place in the vertical load testing category.

“This was the first year in recent memory that the bridge was not disqualified from placement,” said team captain Nick Worden. “Usually it breaks at load testing, which disqualifies it from awards in any category.”

Philip Yu and Martha Quigg reach over the imaginary river marked with blue tape to install arch members.Philip Yu and Martha Quigg reach over the imaginary river marked with blue tape to install arch members. Photo credit: Marie Arnold

Comprised of 25 members, the team implemented a few new strategies this year. They also designed the bridge with the following goals in mind: to not break during load testing and to be easily constructed. Rather than assigning one person to design the entire bridge, a four-person design team was implemented. The design team also played an integral role in construction, helping to refine the design when problems constructing the bridge were encountered. A few other positions were also added, including a global design lead, who the design team reported to, as well as a connections lead, analysis lead and constructability lead.

“This allowed for a better product overall because it allowed people to specialize,” said Worden.  

The competition was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. The team members started working on securing sponsorships last May, with design beginning in late August and ending in mid-February. Construction of the bridge began in November and wrapped up in April. 

During the competition, teams are evaluated on the following three areas:

The build team applies steel anglesThe build team applies steel angles during the second phase of vertical load testing. Photo credit: Dale Quigg

  • Build: During the build portion of the competition, teams are timed as they race to assemble their multi-part bridges using nuts, bolts and wrenches. This is meant to simulate constructability, which is how well the design can be implemented in the field. 
  • Lateral Testing: During lateral testing, bridges are pulled with 50 pounds of tension force and must not sway more than half an inch. This is meant to simulate serviceability, which is the feeling of safety a user has when using a structure.
  • Vertical Load Testing: During the vertical load testing, bridges are loaded with 2,500 pounds and are evaluated by how much they bend.

Next up for the Steel Bridge Team will be preparing for next year’s regional competition in early April 2018 at the Oregon Institute of Technology.

Building the bridge

Many months of hard work went into designing and building this year's bridge. Check out photos from the building process!


View a time-lapse video of the team assembling their bridge at the regional competition.  

The team following testingThe Steel Bridge Team following successful load testing at the competition. Photo credit: Marie Arnold