Thunder Bay

LU engineering students ready for national steel bridge competition

A group of Lakehead University students have bridged their way to a national engineering competition.

Team qualified by winning regional competition last month

L-R Mack Barber, Kevin Langdon, Matt Olinski, Yunseul Shin, and Ben Degroot, the members of Lakehead University's Steel Bridge Team, will be competing in the national steel bridge competition in Illinois in May. (Lakehead University)

A group of Lakehead University students have bridged their way to a national engineering competition.

Lakehead's steel bridge team will compete next month at the American Institute of Steel Construction/American Society of Civil Engineers National Student Steel Bridge Competition in Champaign, Illinois.

It's a spot they earned by winning the regional competition in March, team captain Matt Olinski said.

"Lakehead's made the national competition 18 out of the past 20 years," Olinksi said. "For us to continue that tradition, is very suiting, I think."

Simulation of bridge construction

The five-person team is made up of fourth-year civil engineering students. They began preliminary work on the bridge — an 18-foot span at 1:10 scale made of steel — in September, although most of the work was done between January and March.

For the competitions, teams have to design the bridge — there are 35 pages worth of specifications to meet, Lakehead said in a media release — and fabricate the pieces.

"It's based off a theoretical scenario," Olinski said. "Once you're at the competition, you have the opportunity to build your bridge on-site."

"You're given a score based on your time," he said. "There's time penalties allocated towards dropping things on the ground, or dropping things in our theoretical river area that we have."

The whole thing is designed to simulate the construction of a real bridge, Olinski said: transportation, staging, and the actual building.

Bridge adjustments to come before national competition

Once complete, the bridge is weighed, and after that, load testing is done, and scores tallied.

In the regional competition, held in Iowa City, Lakehead's team placed first for construction speed, construction economy, and structural efficiency, third for display and fourth for lightness; combined, the scores put Lakehead in first place overall.

Now, with the national competition looming, the team will be making some adjustments to the bridge, Olinski said.

"Because of time constraints, building a whole new bridge probably isn't feasible," he said. "For us, it might be more useful to make modifications [and] do more of the little things that you can do."

The National Student Steel Bridge Competition takes place May 25-26.