Steel Bridge Team at national championships

By Katie Neitz

Lafayette’s steel bridge team not only successfully defended its title—it dominated the Student Steel Bridge Competition National Finals in Carbondale, Ill.

It’s the second year in a row the team took first place in the national competition, which featured 41 teams from the country’s top engineering programs.

Lafayette’s team qualified for the national competition by winning the Mid-Atlantic Steel Bridge Regional Competition in April. The regional victory marked the 13th time Lafayette has qualified for the national competition since 2005.

“Back-to-back national championships is certainly great,” says Steve Kurtz, team adviser and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “But the best part—for me, at least—is seeing education in action. As a team, our perspective is that this project teaches the art/science of engineering decision-making; every decision must be an engineered decision, backed by data, analysis, and argument. This process led to design choices that were quite unlike any other design. This team never stopped questioning, arguing, and analyzing—and it showed.”

Steel Bridge Team at national championships.

The steel bridge team won four of six categories, which added up to its overall victory.

Teams are judged on how they perform in six different categories. Lafayette took first place in four of the six: construction speed, stiffness, construction economy, and structural efficiency. Which made the victory a mathematical certainty, Kurtz says.

Watch a video showing the team’s winning construction—an asymmetric tied-arch concept.