Iowa State students hold up under pressure in Steel Bridge Competition

Members of ISU ASCE Steel Bridge construct bridge pieces during competition (Courtesy Joni Truong)
Members of ISU ASCE Steel Bridge construct bridge pieces during competition (Courtesy Joni Truong)

Campus chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers (ISU ASCE) takes third place overall at 2017 ASCE Midwest Steel Bridge Competition

Late last month, students in Iowa State University’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers, or ISU ASCE, brought home third place overall at the society’s Midwest Steel Bridge Competition.

The 36-member team traveled to North Dakota State University to compete against nine other schools in the region, including schools from Canada, North and South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota. First place overall went to Lakehead University and second to North Dakota State University.

Student welds together parts of steel bridge (Courtesy Joni Truong)
Student welds together parts of steel bridge (Courtesy Joni Truong)

Prior to contest, ISU Steel Bridge members created a 20-foot, 250-pound bridge prototype. Groups are required to create a 1:10 ratio-sized bridge. The structure can break down into separate pieces, and is re-assembled at the competition. Teams are judged on categories like lightness, construction speed and display (how the bridge looks). The bridge is then tested with load combinations equaling 2,500 pounds.

“When we’re designing for the bridge, we have no idea what actual load combination we’ll get,” says ISU ASCE Steel Bridge President Maegan Klus. “If we just had one, it would be a lot easier. You can efficiently design something for the worst-case scenario. But we don’t have that luxury.”

Instead, Klus and her team must build the best bridge to hold up under a variety of tests. Within individual categories, Iowa State took first place in bridge stiffness. This is the amount of give the bridge displays when load is applied. Less amount of give means better stiffness.

ISU team's steel bridge (Courtesy Michael Lundquist)
ISU team’s steel bridge (Courtesy Michael Lundquist)

Klus has been in the club for the last three years. A graduating senior this spring, she encourages young students to get involved in ASCE.

“People think it’s mostly structural. Like, if you’re interested in structural engineering, you should do this club,” Klus says. “That is not the case. I’m a geotech (geotechnical engineering) emphasis. We’ve had environmental-emphasis presidents. We have an ME (mechanical engineer) on the team this year. So it’s a very diverse group. I don’t think you have to be a structural emphasis to do well in the club.”


If you are interested in joining ISU ASCE Steel Bridge, check it out on Facebook (Iowa State University Steel Bridge Club). Find out about more exciting opportunities at Iowa State’s Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering Department by visiting us on Facebook (ISU CCEE), Twitter (@isuccee), and LinkedIn (Iowa State University Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and ISUConE).