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06-07-2006

Clarkson Steel Bridge Team Competes at RIT

Build a 1:10 scale model steel bridge capable of carrying a design load of 2,500 pounds with minimal deflection and cost and build it quickly. That is the daunting task facing students from Clarkson University and seven other universities when they arrived at the ASCE/AISC (American Society of Civil Engineers/American Institute of Steel Construction) Steel Bridge competition, hosted by Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, April 28-29.

Clarkson's steel bridge team is part of the University's award- winning SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program, which promotes multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities for more than 250 undergraduate students annually. SPEED teams participate in a variety of engineering and design competitions, ranging from aircraft and vehicle design to robotics, concrete canoe competition and environmental restoration. These projects involve engineering design and analysis, fabrication and the enhancement of professional competencies such as budget management, effective teamwork and communication skills.

College teams participating in the Steel Bridge Competition design and build their bridges on site to design specifications. The designs are judged by professional civil engineers and architects in six competition categories, including construction speed, lightness, stiffness, construction economics, aesthetics and structural efficiency.

"Although we are disappointed with our overall finish, our main goal for this year was to improve construction speed," remarked Cunningham. "We worked really hard on assembly technique to get our time down and we were able to construct the bridge in our best time ever. A second place finish in this area of the competition is a significant achievement for the team," she added. Location of the weight on Clarkson's bridge resulted in a larger than expected deflection on the bridge deck and knocked the SPEED team out of contention for a top-place finish. Weight location is chosen randomly by the judges.

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 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.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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