Packing up the Steel Bridge: CE to compete in Seattle

For members of the CEE's Steel Bridge team, the civil engineering lessons didn't end with finals. A few days after finishing their school work for the year, the nine-person team began preparing for the National AISC/ASCE Steel Bridge Competition, which will be held in Seattle, May 31 - June 1.

"We had taken a few weeks off after [placing second in] the Regional Competition in April, so we were a little rusty," said team co-captain Adam Karebenli. "We're using every minute we have to improve our performance."

The annual Steel Bridge competition challenges undergraduate students from top engineering schools to build a steel structure that will meet specified  weight, endurance, and construction design standards. 

At the AISC/ASCE Regional Competition in April, the CEE team had one of its best-ever results, topping the field in some categories and coming in number two overall. That result guaranteed the team a place at the national competition, but it didn't guarantee much else.

"Every team that made it through the regionals will be practicing for the national competition," said faculty advisor Dr. Donald White. "The Steel Bridge competition is known in the industry as a great test of a student's engineering abilities. People watch the results, and doing well can help you when you are applying for a job."

Acing the competition requires the college teams to take into account the same factors that working engineers struggle to address on every jobsite. Top among those considerations are time and money.

"At regionals, we got a $250,000 penalty because some of our decking support surface on our bridge wasn't completely flat. It had some bent sections," said Kyle Manweiler, team co-captain. "We lost to another team by $200,000, which was close."

Close enough to give Manweiler and Karebenli confidence that a few tweaks in their design -- and a lot of practice -- will help them top the field in Seattle.

"We think we solved one problem that hurt us at regionals," said Karabenli. "We've welded some hooks onto the bottom quarter of the bridge so that we can add new pieces without having them swing down and fall off the structure. That added a little bit of weight, but that's compensated by the amount of time we'll save and the reduction of construction errors."

This is the last chance for Karebenli and Manweiler to make a run for the much-coveted prize, as both men are beginning more rigorous graduate programs at Georgia Tech this summer.

"I won't have time to get involved in this next year," said  Manweiler. "We've got new captains for next year, and they've learned a lot from this year, so they will do great."

Check out "Steel Bridge: The Movie."