April 11, 2014

The structure must be less than 200 pounds, yet withstand the weight of 2,400 pounds. Each piece is two feet by three inches by six inches, and only sag two inches.

Those requirements might seem strict, but five LSU engineering students are putting their minds to work to design and build an 18-foot steel bridge that fits all the above restrictions.

Ryan Jeansonne, Paul Wedig, Brad Jacobs, Josh Kohler and Blake Villarrubia – all civil engineering seniors – competed at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Institute of Steel Construction’s (AISC) National Student Steel Bridge Competition at the ASCE regional conference on March 29.

“The best part of being on the team is being able to apply the skills we have learned and polished for years into a model of a real world project,” said Wedig. “The bridge itself is supposed to be a railroad bridge that is spanning a scenic river that is 170 feet wide.”

The team must build a model one-tenth the size of an actual bridge at the competition.

“You’re judged on three criteria: how heavy the bridge is, how strong the bridge is and how fast you can build it,” said Jeansonne, who serves as team captain.

As long as the team follows the rules, “the design is entirely up to each individual school,” said Kohler.

“Every aspect of the bridge needed to be heavily scrutinized to make sure we were in compliance. Even a very minor rule violation, such as a bolt not sticking out enough or two steel members touching each other without a bolt, could mean virtual disqualification,” said Wedig.

Because the rulebook is so intricate, the team members agreed that no detail should go unnoticed.

“I think that the fact that we had to put so much effort into doing everything on our own really made us appreciate how much work goes into a project and strive even harder to succeed in the competition,” said Wedig.

The team must also network and fundraise in order to attend the National Student Steel Bridge Competition.

“Not only do we design, fabricate and build the bridge, but we also handle all of the fundraising that is needed to order steel and pay for travel expenses,” said Jacobs, who serves as co-captain.

Jeansonne even acquired an interview with a company after a fundraising meeting with the organization. He said being on LSU’s steel bridge team has helped him prepare for his future career.

“In school we learn how to design these things, but on the steel bridge team, we learn how to design and test it,” said Jeansonne.


Article by Danielle Kelley, LSU College of Engineering communications intern

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Delicious
  • Reddit