NM Tech Students Participate in ASCE Bridge-Building Contest, May 9, 2006

 Bridge-Building Team, left to right: Trevor Self, William Shuter, Bryan Mitchell, Dr. Claudia Wilson, Katheryn Stapleton, Johsua Fleming, Clifton Lee

by Shawna Carter

SOCORRO, N.M., May 9, 2006 — New Mexico Tech students Joshua Fleming, Clifton Lee, Brian Mitchell, Trevor Self, William Shuter, and Katheryn Stapleton recently participated as the first team from New Mexico Tech to enter in the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) annual bridge-building contest.

In the nationwide contest, which was held this year in Rapid City, S.D., participants were asked to build a bridge made of segments no longer than three feet over an imaginary river 11 feet wide. Participants were not allowed to throw bridge segments, bolts, or tools across the river, nor could they drop tools, bolts, nuts, or hard hats at any time. In addition, part of the contest was timed and performed in front of a panel of judges.

Other contest rules required that the bridges must be capable of holding a 2,500-pound vertical load and a 50-pound lateral load, with as little deflection as possible.

The bridges were judged based on aesthetics, durability, lightness, stiffness, structural efficiency, usability, functionality, safety, and construction speed.

The New Mexico Tech team, comprised mostly of civil engineering students, faired well at the competition, says Claudia Wilson, a civil engineering professor at New Mexico Tech and faculty advisor to the team.

“When subjected to a 2,500-pound vertical load, the Tech-built bridge only deflected 0.62 inches, which was the second best in the category,” Wilson adds.

“Although the team was eliminated during the timed portion of the contest because of a slight mix-up in the set-up process, they did receive a certificate of ‘Outstanding Debut Performance’ and a standing ovation during the awards ceremony,” Wilson relates.

“Faculty members of different universities, judges, and ASCE representatives all expressed their admiration for the work the students had performed and their expectations for New Mexico Tech’s participation in 2007,” she adds.

The New Mexico Tech team was among numerous competing teams from throughout the nation, including New Mexico State University, the University of New Mexico, Colorado State University, Bringham Young University, the United States Air Force Academy, and many others.

According to Wilson, the other teams had the advantage of experience over the New Mexico Tech team: “I think it was a really fun project, the students had a great time, and it gave them the opportunity to apply the knowledge they gained in the classroom in a very practical manner, which they really appreciate. They really learned a lot and have a better understanding that what works well on paper, may not necessarily work well in the field.”

The team of Tech undergraduates, who started designing their project at the start of this spring semester, was sponsored by the New Mexico Tech Vice President for Academic Affairs Office, the ASCE student chapter, the New Mexico ASCE section, the New Mexico Tech Student Association, and the American Institute of Steel Construction.

Fleming, Self, Shuter and Stapleton are scheduled to graduate from New Mexico Tech at the end of this semester, while Lee is scheduled to graduate later this year in December, and Mitchell is scheduled to graduate at a later date.