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Student Bridges Shine in the Sunshine State
Posted by MSC on September 5, 2008 at 10:10 AM.

The University of Florida’s Stephen C. O’Connell Center was full of students this past May 23-24, but the majority of them weren’t Gators.


Civil engineering students from around the country, as far away as Hawaii, traveled to the Gainesville campus, as the school played host to the 17th annual AISC/ASCE National Student Steel Bridge Competition. This year’s contest ended with the University of California, Berkeley taking first place for the first time in their history. California’s win ended North Dakota State University’s bid for a three-peat; that school had won in 2006 and 2007. The University of Florida (UF) and the University of California, Davis took second and third place respectively.


For the 42 participating universities, the goal of the competition was to design, fabricate, and build the most efficient 21-ft steel bridge that could support a vertical load of 2,500 lbs. Each bridge was ranked in six categories: Construction Speed, Lightness, Aesthetics, Stiffness, Economy, and Efficiency. Teams spent the entire year and countless hours preparing for the competition.


Beyond the Bridge

For the University of Florida, however, designing an award-winning bridge was only part of the goal. As the host school, the larger feat was figuring out how 42 bridges were going to be assembled and tested in only eight hours.

Nearly 650 students, professors, and professionals attended the competition expecting the competition to run smoothly and efficiently. What many of them didn’t realize is that well before the rules were released in August of 2007—and even before many students knew they would even be on a steel bridge team—students at the UF were already preparing for the 2008 competition. In fact, Dr. Tom Sputo, UF ASCE Faculty Advisor, began the long process in 2006 when he requested that UF be considered as the host of the 2008 NSSBC.


A small committee of dedicated students was assembled in to plan, coordinate, and execute the competition. The students, with already busy schedules—juggling homework and oftentimes a job, as well as other responsibilities—added another demanding item to their plate, spending countless hours making hotel arrangements, setting up contracts with vendors, contacting professionals to be judges, and coordinating with the qualifying universities to make sure they were ready for the competition. Many of the venues, including the O’Connell Center and the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom, were reserved two years in advance—even before the 2007 NSSBC, hosted by the University of California, Northridge.


Student Director of the competition and AISC summer intern James Falls described his experience: “You have to be dedicated and proud to host the best student engineering competition in the country. It was a tremendous amount of work but extremely rewarding when two years of hard work all comes together.” Without question, the students in charge from year to year are the unsung heroes that make the competition possible.


Fromy Rosenberg, AISC’s Director of University Relations, commented, “This is the premier competition for student engineers. It brings together everything students have learned in the classroom. Participating students practice basic steel design and fabrication, project scheduling and management, and gain hands-on appreciation for the strength and versatility of structural steel.”


In order to reach the National Student Steel Bridge Competition, student teams nationwide competed in 18 regional competitions. The winners in those competitions were invited to compete in the national event. This year, a total of 182 universities competed in the regional Student Steel Bridge Competitions.

The 2009 NSSBC competition will be hosted by the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), May 22-23, 2009—and yes, UNLV has already been preparing for months.


SIDEBAR: 2008 NSSBC Winners Overall

  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. University of Florida
  3. University of California, Davis


Construction Speed 

  1. SUNY College of Technology at Canton
  2. University of California, Berkeley
  3. University of Wyoming



  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. Virginia Polytechnic Institute
  3. University of Florida



  1. Iowa State University 
  2. South Dakota School of Mines
  3. University of Wisconsin-Madison



  1. University of Missouri, Kansas City
  2. University of Wisconsin, Madison
  3. Seattle University



  1. SUNY College of Technology at Canton
  2. University of California, Berkeley
  3. University of Florida



  1. University of California, Berkeley
  2. University of California, Davis
  3. University of Florida


Full results for the overall competition and each category are posted on the official 2008 NSSBC website,

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