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Clarkson's Steel And Timber Bridge Teams Excel In Recent Competitions

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Clarkson University's Timber Bridge and Steel Bridge teams both earned second-place finishes this spring in collegiate design competitions. Timber Bridge 2004

Clarkson's Timber Bridge Team finished second of 14 student teams from universities across the U.S. in the 12th Annual National Timber Bridge Design Competition.

The Clarkson team placed first in the Most Innovative Design, second in the Best Overall Design, and third in the Most Aesthetic categories. Their bridge support structure was two box girders designed with an internal cable truss system of two 9.5 mm steel cables placed between each girder's three webs. The team received more than $1,000 in prizes.

The competition is open to student chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Forest Products Society. Each participating team must design, construct and test bridges on their home campus. They then submit documentation of their activities and results to a panel of judges for review.

The Timber Bridge Team is comprised of 15 undergraduate students. Clarkson Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Jubum Kim is the team's faculty advisor. To meet competition guidelines, the students had to design and build a bridge that could be no longer than 13 feet and no wider than nine feet. The bridge also had to support a load capacity of 4,500 pounds with minimal deflection at the bridge's center.

The Clarkson bridge was designed and built and then tested at Clarkson's Structures Laboratory. Their final design results were sent to competition headquarters where a team of engineers judged bridge support structures, decking design, practicality, innovation and aesthetic appeal.

The Southwest Mississippi Resource Conservation and Development Inc. coordinates the competition, with funding support from the U.S. Forest Service, the Southern Forest Products Association, Unit Structures LLC, Weyerhaeuser Co., and the ASCE Structural Engineering Institute.

The eight-member Clarkson Steel Bridge Team finished in second place out of nine teams at a regional competition held recently on SUNY Buffalo campus.

The ASCE and the American Institute of Steel Construction sponsor the event, which challenges teams of students to design and build a structure that will hold at least 2,500 pounds of weight with minimal deflection and cost. Each bridge must also meet a set of design requirements and specifications as outlined by competition rules.

Teams must build bridges on site during the competition and submit oral and written reports. Designs are judged by professional engineers and architects in six competition categories, including construction speed, lightness, stiffness, construction economics, aesthetics, and structural efficiency. The Clarkson team performed particularly well in the structural and construction categories.

Clarkson Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Levon Minnetyan advised the team.

This year's design was particularly challenging, said team captain, Ian Knack, a sophomore and civil environmental engineering major. "This year's bridge had to be longer than last year's bridge, which made it more difficult to design and build for several reasons. The longer the bridge is, the more rigid the connections between each section have to be to carry the weight between its supports. Also, the length of the bridge made the assembly of the bridge during the competition's allotted time frame more difficult."

Based on its strong finish in Buffalo, Clarkson's Steel Bridge Team has been invited to compete in the national steel bridge competition to be held this summer at the ASCE student conference at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Overall, I am very pleased with our bridge's performance and the experience was terrific, added Knack. "There is a lot of learning with a project like this that cannot get covered in a classroom. You learn what is involved in the fabrication of a structure and about materials and procedures. Building something really gives you an appreciation of how a design is actually turned into a structure or machine."

Next year, Clarkson will host the regional steel bridge competition.

Clarkson's Timber Bridge and Steel Bridge teams are part of the University's SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program, which promotes multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduates annually. SPEED projects involve engineering design and analysis, fabrication, and the enhancement of professional competencies such as budget management, effective teamwork, and communication skills.

The SPEED program is one of the Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering hallmark initiatives promoting the "Vision of a Clarkson Education" through experiential learning by hands-on application of academic theory to real-world problems. SPEED receives its primary financial support from Alcoa, Corning, Eastman Kodak, the General Electric Fund, and Procter & Gamble and was recognized with the 2001 Boeing Outstanding Educator Award and the 2002 Corporate and Foundation Alliance Award for its exceptional contributions to improving undergraduate engineering education.

Photo caption: The Clarkson Timber Bridge Team works on fabrication of their timber bridge design. The team finished second of 14 student teams from universities across the U.S. in the 12th Annual National Timber Bridge Design Competition.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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