Tag Archives: Steel Bridge

Steel bridge & statics

Two weeks ago, Lehigh University participated in ASCE’s Mid-Atlantic Region Student Conference hosted by Drexel University. One of the competitions Lehigh participated in was the Steel Bridge Competition. Since it was my first time going to the event, I was really excited to see what the competition was all about. (Throughout this semester, I helped in the construction of the bridge by cutting some of the angle-pieces, etc. and I was really excited to see where all my work was being used!) The build-team, which consisted of 5 students from Lehigh, ended up building the bridge in under 45 minutes, from which I understand is a big improvement from last year’s time.

Although the bridge passed the lateral test, it did not pass the vertical loading test. Our bridge deformed to an extent where the arches appeared to buckle under the weight added to it.


Before the bridge deformed

As I watched the bridge deform under the load, all that came to mind was Mech003, which I took instead of CEE3: Engineering Statics, and the stuff we learned about bridges, distributed loads, stress concentrations, plastic deformations, bending, etc. It was really cool seeing what I had learned in a class setting I was seeing in real life and how the concepts and equations applied to real structures. As finals begin next week for all Lehigh students, the deformation of our bridge will definitely help me remember some of the equations used in Mech3 as I now have visual aids to help me remember!


Our bridge deformed.


Paths of a CivE: Part 1

Lehigh is great because it is a gateway to many options. Anything you read on this blog or another Lehigh blog is just one option of many. Don’t get me wrong if you read about someone who studied abroad and you want to follow in their footsteps, that is completely possible. However when it comes to Lehigh they are limitless. Take my group of friends for example. I won’t name names so lets call them Student 1,2 and 3. Thing three doesn’t exist to Dr. Seuss but for the sake of the post, he/she/it does now. It is important to note that everyone following is in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department! I decided to split these into multiple blog posts because it would be ridiculously Long

Student 1 is a CivE like me. He takes all the same courses and what not, but his summer plans differ greatly from mine. He is starting his own research project on Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus. This is not normal for undergraduates, but at Lehigh these things are possible. He has a few professor’s backing and he will be paid healthily for his work. I believe he’s working on some kind of sustainable living on mars project. All his own creating, and all his own plan. If you are interested you can find more about it at http://www.lehigh.edu/mountaintop/proposals/index.html. Anyway Thing 1 lives in Rhode Island and is planning to become a writer on top of his CivE degree and Philosophy minor. Could see yourself doing this? Choose Lehigh CEE

Steel Bridge Competition

Hello everyone!

It’s been a long time since my last blog. I apologize, I have been working on a few videos for the department and haven’t had the chance to write anything lately. It was also the middle of exams so I was not able to spare any time for this blog! However, I’m back now and I hope to post more on a regular basis.

I’m sure you’ve read posts from Katie about the Steel Bridge club at Lehigh University. I was fortunate enough to be involved with the club and I was able to attend the regional Steel Bridge competition (if you want to learn more about the competition, I’ve provided a link here: http://www.aisc.org/content.aspx?id=780). This year, the competition was held at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. We actually just got back from the competition Sunday afternoon so everything is still pretty fresh in my mind. It was actually a perfect weekend and almost everything turned out right.Bridge in pieces

The Naval Academy

It’s always fun to visit another college. Even as a prospective university student, I’ve always loved going onto another campus and seeing the culture. A little bit off-topic, but doesn’t the idea that each university has its own culture, people, and buildings make you feel so small? Anyways, even though I consider myself to be motivated, I felt absolutely lazy when I was at the academy. My first impression: everyone was running. It didn’t take long for me to realize the discipline and pressure these kids go through. While a long day at Lehigh meant an 8 hour study session in the library, I can only assume how these cadets go through so much more.

The campus was beautiful. I’m not sure what the undergraduate (are they even called undergraduates?) population is, but Lehigh’s campus is absolutely dwarfed by the size of the academy. Even the biggest buildings at Lehigh seem to be moderately sized at the academy. I honestly wish I had taken more pictures.

2014-04-12 14.34.53The Bridge (before competition)

Going back to the topic of the bridge, I’m sure Katie has written a lot on the topic, but I’ll recap briefly. The Steel Bridge competition is an engineering project where different universities design and construct their own bridges and to ultimately test them against each other. These bridges measure 20 ft in length and around 30 feet in width, which is around 1/10 of an actual bridge. We started from scratch, just a pile of steel plates and steel rods. For the few months leading up to the competition, we designed our bridge using a 3D software. We were up in the lab ATLSS (Advanced Technology for Large Structure Systems) using plasma cutters and welders to construct each individual members of the bridge. By the time we were ready to go off to the competition, we have a whole bunch of bridge members that we can bolt up to create an actual bridge.

The Competition

There are three parts to the competition: (1) build speed, (2) lateral load, and (3) vertical load. These tests are pretty self explanatory. We are to assemble the bridge (remember, we’ve already had the individual members, now we just need to bolt them up) as quickly as possible. Next, we put a 50 lb lateral load on the bridge. Lastly, we see how much weight we can apply vertically onto the bridge.

Unfortunately, since our team was very inexperienced (most of the team is comprised of underclassmen), we did not perform as 2014-04-13 08.28.48well as many of the other teams. Our build speed was 25:02 (maximum time was 30 min) and we failed the lateral load test. Since we failed the lateral load, we were unable to continue to vertical loading.

Despite our low rankings, it was a wonderful experience. Our team learned many vital lessons on how to improve our bridge. The most important of which is to allow time for the bridge. Instead of cramming the entire construction into a matter of weeks, we must begin our bridge earlier. One of our biggest failures this year was that we started too late. We didn’t even begin building our bridge until just a month ago. By giving our project more team, we can improve our results greatly.


Steel Bridge Update

Ever since we returned from spring break, we have been putting in a lot of time up at ATLSS to work on the bridge. All of the steel is cut, now we just have to weld it all together. There are only a few weeks left until the competition, so we are going to be working really hard until then. We bought another welder, so our production can double, which will be really helpful. Other than welding, we have to drill some holes in some of the pieces. Once everything is done, we’ll be able to test it and practice putting it together.

This week has been a little rough because exams started, but next week, more people should be able to come and work on welding the members. Hopefully we can get everything together without any issues!

Learning How to Really Weld

photo 1 (4)

My sweet new welding helmet

Fun Fact: Lehigh has a woodshop and metalshop on campus. Students can get certified in the shops and use them for projects etc. I happen to work in the woodshop and my boss is training my friend and me in the metal shop. I know how to weld from Steel Bridge, but I was taught from a student who learned from another student who probably learned from another student and so on. Needless to say, I knew nothing about the science behind the technique/process or even how to really weld properly. Not anymore!

Two weeks ago, my boss, Mike, started teaching us how to weld for real. He first explained how the welders work and the different kinds of welding. He also went over safety, which is a really big deal when you have 20-100 volts running through the circuit and you’re heating the steel to at least 2500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then, we moved on to actually welding. The first type of welding on our list was stick arc welding because its the most basic but most difficult, so if you know stick arc, everything else comes easy. Stick arc is a manual type of welding that uses a stick of electrode that is coated in flux to lay the weld.

Our first stick arc welds. Not too bad!

Our first stick arc welds. Not too bad!

We started with basics and learned the motions without the welder being on. Once we knew everything Mike could tell us, we moved on to the real deal. Mike showed us how to strike an arc, do the weld, and finish the arc. After the demonstration, it was our turn. It was weird at first, but we both got the hang of it pretty quickly! Mike is going to keep teaching us a little bit each week. I’m really excited to become a better welder and be able to use my new skills for Steel Bridge!

Steel Bridge – Bridge Design

The first semester of the Steel Bridge project is all design. There is a 40 page set of rules that we have to follow. Well, we finally have the design mostly complete-just a few more changes, probably. Below is the initial design.

photo 1 (3)

The arch on the top was intended to reduce deflection, which it did, but the bridge weighed over 400 lbs. Way too much weight. So, we got rid of it, and it dropped a couple hundred pounds. Removing the arch will also make building the bridge during the competition easier and reduce the time it takes to build it. The new bridge is below.

photo 2 (3)

The pink squares are the connections between the members. They are basically interlocking joints.

photo 3 (2)In the program, all of the design constraints are met. The maximum vertical and horizontal deflections are not exceeded, and the weight is relatively low. We will only really know if the physical bridge works after we build it. Our welds have to be strong and neat which will be a challenge since only 3 of us know how to weld, and we’re not the best. However, I’m confident that the bridge will be successful in the end we will have a lot of fun building it!

Steel Bridge

Steel Bridge has been of to a bit of a slow start this year. We have a new President, so him and I, as the VP, have been working hard together to do everything that has to be taken care of. We are learning a lot in the process. We’ve had really good turn outs at all of out meetings so far, which is really encouraging. Most of our members are either freshman or sophomores, though, so we really need to start at the basics for bridge design. To do that, we wanted to get a faculty member to give them a crash course in bridge design. After talking to a few people, I ended up meeting with the guy who actually teaches a bridge design course here, Dr. Roy. He seems really interested in helping us and wants to do more than just give a crash course. He told me that he’d like to be part of the whole project, and help us with everything he possibly can. Dr. Roy has a lot of connections to firms in the Lehigh Valley (donations???), and when he was a grad student, he actually was a judge for a Steel Bridge Competition. He also knows some current grad students who would be interested in helping us as well. Obviously, having Dr. Roy would be a huge asset to our team, so we are in the process of getting him on board. Once we get him involved, the design process will surely pick up speed!

Also, check out our new website: http://lusteelbridge.com/

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