INSIDE Chico State
0 May 16, 2002
Volume 32 Number 16
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Students Engineer Best Bridge … Again and Again


Steve Grupico (left) and Sergio Damian put the finishing touches on this year’s steel bridge entry as a judge scrutinizes their assembly.

Photo by Jeff Teeter

For the sixth consecutive year, CSU, Chico civil engineering students have won the Mid-Pacific Region Steel Bridge Competition held at San Jose State on April 26.

The team and its adviser, Joel Arthur, professor of civil engineering, will be traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, in June for the national competition. They hope to regain the national championship, which they won in 2000. In 1999, they finished second.

The American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Institute of Steel Construction sponsor the annual event. Chico’s team competed against seven schools from Northern California and Nevada, including UC Berkeley; University of Nevada, Reno; UC Davis; and CSU, Sacramento.

The competition requires that student teams from each university fabricate a dimensionally scaled bridge from structural steel and then construct their bridge over an imaginary 13-foot-wide river during timed assembly. The Chico team used advanced computer modeling and design techniques to analyze and design a steel bridge to meet construction specifications.

Chico’s 21 1/2-foot-long, 232-pound steel bridge easily supported 2,500 pounds of loading to earn first place in both stiffness and construction speed. Six students assembled the bridge in a lightning fast 3 minutes and 45 seconds, which helped the team achieve first place in a tight race with Sacramento State.

A competitor is allowed to carry only one bridge member at a time from the staging areas, located on each side of the river, to the riverbanks to complete the assembly of the 20-piece bridge. The total construction time is obtained by multiplying the number of competitors and the assembly time; then time penalties are added for such things as dropping bolts or touching the river.

After assembly, the bridge is moved to a loading station where movement up or down (deflection) is measured for two loading challenges with a total of 2,500 pounds: 2,000 pounds is placed uniformly over the center six feet of the bridge at one end, and then the final 500 pounds is placed on one of the cantilevered overhangs at the other end. The aggregate deflection is then calculated.

After surviving the loading tests, the bridge is weighed, completing the competition. Awards are given based on the three numbers from construction: speed of construction, total deflection, and weight (lighter is better).

“The competition is unparalleled as a learning task, as it demands that students apply and test theoretical concepts related to the analysis, design, and performance optimization of structures,” said Arthur.

Team captain John Calvert, along with team members Sergio Damian, Myles Gilbert, Steve Grupico, Chad Houchin, Matt King, Paul Rabo, and faculty adviser Arthur, are busy modifying the bridge design to make it even more competitive at the national competition. Technician Jim Luallen provides guidance and assistance to the team throughout the construction process.

Kathleen McPartland with Joel Arthur

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