Schulz places fourth at national steel bridges competitionNathaniel Schulz of Cloquet, a second-year student at Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton, Mich., competed as a member of the MTU Steel Bridges Competition team that placed fourth in the 2012 National Student Steel Bridges Competition (NSSBC) in May.
Nathaniel Schulz of Cloquet, a second-year student at Michigan Technological University (MTU) in Houghton, Mich., competed as a member of the MTU Steel Bridges Competition team that placed fourth in the 2012 National Student Steel Bridges Competition (NSSBC) in May.
The NSSBC is an inter-collegiate challenge that requires civil engineering students to design, fabricate and construct a steel bridge. This year’s specifications required students to design bridges that were more than 22 feet long, able to hold 2,500 pounds and span an imaginary river. The bridges were also designed to minimize the amount of steel and the time to assemble the bridge.
The national event was held May 25-26 at Clemson University in South Carolina. Over 500 students from 47 universities from across the United States, Canada, Mexico and China participated in the 2012 NSSBC. Teams qualified for the national competition by winning or placing in regional events.
Up to six members of each team build the bridges one piece at a time and are timed to see how efficiently they can assemble their bridges. Other team members bring the pieces to them one at a time from a separate staging area. Clemson University Professor Scott Schiff said it’s important that the pieces are delivered in the order they are needed because no piece can be left on the floor.
“It’s not just designing a bridge that can hold 2,500 pounds ¬– that’s easy,” he said. “It’s designing a bridge that’s easy to build, meets all of the design requirements and construction rules and can hold 2,500 pounds.”
Teams are scored based on how long it takes to assemble their bridges multiplied by the number of team members building them, how much their bridges weigh to measure how much material they use, how little their bridges deflect when weight is added and if they can hold the 2,500 pounds. Aesthetics also can affect the final scores.
“There were 47 teams and there were 47 unique solutions to the design of the bridge, even though all teams were given the same problem statement and requirements,” said Schiff.
In the six individual categories, Michigan Tech placed first in both Lightness and Efficiency, fourth in Stiffness, fifth in Speed, 11th in Economy and 20th in Display, good for fourth place overall behind the University of California-Berkeley, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.
Schiff said steel bridge teams begin planning their bridges after each year’s national competition and spend months designing and fabricating them.
“I wouldn’t want to add up how many hours they devote to this project,” he said.
Schulz, a 2010 graduate of Cloquet Senior High School, is the son of Scott and Julie Schulz of Cloquet. He is majoring in civil engineering at Michigan Tech.