College of Engineering University of Wisconsin-Madison
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THE CONDUIT : The Civil & Environmental Engineering Department Newsletter

FALL / WINTER 2009-10

Featured articles

As climate changes, team explores new ways to manage stormwater

Environmental road trip: Rating system to assess 'green' highways

Professionals in education: Profiles of four adjunct faculty members

The 13th annual CEE Golf Outing!

Tight-knit steel bridge team aims for the top

Partnership produces water-run scooter

Middle East air quality study bridges borders

Regular Features

Message from the Chair

Focus on new faculty:
Carol Menassa

Alumni News

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Tight knit steel bridge team aims for the top

Members of the UW-Madison steel bridge team
Members of the steel bridge team
(Larger image)

Decorative initial cap Nearly as long as a football field, the expansive Engineering Centers Building atrium offers ample space for many university events and expositions held throughout the year.

On spring Saturdays, it also serves as a training ground for a unique athletic endeavor that marries basic civil engineering with agility, speed, precision—and of course, teamwork.

The challenge? Build a strong steel bridge across a pretend river using hundreds of parts and pieces set up in delivery “yards” on either end. Time is of the essence, as is accuracy. Construction team members—and the bridge itself—must hold up well under pressure.

In 2010, there’s an added layer of complexity—one that members of the UW-Madison Steel Bridge Team have imposed upon themselves. “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to go all the way. We’re going to try to win nationals,” says civil and environmental engineering student Tyler Hoehn, who co-chairs the 2009-2010 team with fellow students Ed Sippel and Edson Rosenberg.

Team members are hungry for a national championship, having hovered among the nation’s best steel bridge builders for a decade. The team has earned second-, third-, fourth-, sixth- and 12th-place finishes in six of the last seven years.

The steel bridge under construction

(Larger image)

An offshoot of the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Steel Bridge Team generally boasts a couple of dozen members. About five students make up the competition construction team, while other members help shape the bridge design, spearhead fund-raising efforts (the team has many sponsors), fabricate key parts, mentor new members, or serve as crew for the construction team.

Bridge design begins in September when major competition sponsors ASCE and the American Institute of Steel Construction release rules for the upcoming competition, says Hoehn. For a week during the university winter break, the students work with professional welders and machinists, whom Waunakee, Wisconsin-based Endres Manufacturing Co. supplies to help fabricate major portions of the bridge.

Then there are the spring-semester construction practices, which are a mixture of silly and serious. “Even if they’re not the people doing the run, there’ll be a couple of people standing around, helping take the bridge apart in between,” says Sippel. “And it gets to be a lot of fun, just joking around, being together for a while, taking a break from homework.”

And, says Hoehn, membership on the Steel Bridge Team is a good time with a reasonable time commitment: “I haven’t had a sleepless night yet,” he says.

In 2010, the team will participate in a regional competition held April 23 and 24 at the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology in Terra Haute, Indiana. Depending on its regional performance, the team could travel to the National Student Steel Bridge Competition May 28 and 29 at Purdue University.

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Date last modified: Monday, 22-February-2010
Date created: 22-Februaru-2010



Graphic of the 'The Conduit' newsletter