Modern Steel Construction » Steel in the News » Solutions Take Shape - photos from the 2010 National Student Steel Bridge Competition finals

Solutions Take Shape - photos from the 2010 National Student Steel Bridge Competition finals

Each year AISC makes a substantial investment in the future of the structural engineering community through its sponsorship of the National Student Steel Bridge Competition. Recent articles. In the 2010 comepetition, 192 teams from all across North America participated.


Teams from 46 colleges and universities were in the final round of competition held May 28-29, 2010, on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind. Here’s a sampling of this year’s imaginative student steel bridges and those who built them.






The New Jersey Institute of Technology’s highly fabricated bridge members, officially staged and ready for the competition, with groups of fasteners in the forward staging area. The construction site begins 30 ft beyond where the fasteners are.


Color coding on the University of Kansas bridge members staged for construction. The team used just two builders to maximize construction economy, which is calculated based on the number of builders times the total elapsed construction time (plus fees for temporary piers).



Fasteners are in their own staging area, usually in batches, and all must be touching the ground when the team begins construction.





The University of Central Florida team customized plastic cups used to transport the fasteners by rigging them with carabiners, allowing builders to clip them to their toolbelts and forget about them.


Lafayette University’s bridge builders used magnets attached to various extremities to keep fasteners close at hand and under control.



The University of California at Davis design included several custom tools for holding members in place and making connections, shown here (left) in the staging area and in use during construction.


Florida International University’s team used two identical temporary piers sized to hold particular bridge members at different levels where they needed to be during construction.






The University of Texas at San Antonio used laser-cut hollow members, which in the load test turned out to be exceptionally stable. Note as well the simplicity of the connections that just slip together.



The North Dakota State University team’s bridge members were precisely designed and fabricated for quick and simple assembly. The mechanical joints along the various truss members do all the structural work; bolts in the web-like interstitiary spaces provide stability and compliance. By the way, those efforts paid off - the team came in first in the 2010 overall competition.




The Universite Laval (ESUL) team designed its deck support as an integral part of the main bridge members. The design is shown in the poster (left) which was exhibited in the display portion of the competition. In the photo on the right, the bridge members are staged for the construction part of the competition. Judges use the wooden box in the background to check that all members are within the maximum size limits.





The University of Wyoming bridge used a split truss approach, joining top and bottom members with goof-proof connections (left). The bolts hold them together while additional pairs of pins and holes carry member forces. At the supports (right), a similarly simple connection was used.




The University of Wisconsin – Madison bridge design used slip-in connections anchored by bolts at the supports. This is one of those fabrications where students got some great hands-on welding experience.





Metalwork images adorn many of the student steel bridges. This thunderbird is both symbolic of the First Nations and the University of British Columbia’s official mascot.


Each year Clemson University team members learn TIG and MIG welding in the process of fabricating their bridge. Team members several years ago used their newly acquired skills to produce these team mascots.



Many of the schools use team shirts to publicly thank their sponsors as well as sport the school colors.


The Texas A&M team suited up in the school colors, with several also sporting traditional cowboy boots.


The University of Wyoming’s bridge identification plate includes the school trademark, a cowboy on horseback, in a style matching the member fabrication.





The team from the Illinois Institute of Technology, shown here, had this year’s lightest bridge, weighing in at 142.4 pounds.


Students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison team race against the clock as they put the finishing touches on their entry at the 2010 National Student Steel Bridge Competition held May 28-29, 2010, on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.





The 2011 NSSBC rules will be available in late summer at, where a list of all the 2010 winners is also available. Meanwhile, save the date: the 2011 national finals will be May 20-21, the weekend before Memorial Day, at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.


Background information about the National Student Steel Bridge Competition is available at The official rules, detailed results, and tips are also available at this site.


To read more about the 2010 NSSBC in Modern Steel Construction, click here.


To read about the 2009 NSSBC in MSC, click here.


Commentary and photos by Tom Klemens.


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