Steel Bridge Team: A Year in Review
By Kevin Fielder, SBT Co-captain 2010-12
2011-12 was another exciting year for the University of Michigan Steel Bridge Team. Following the team’s top 10 performance at the 2011 national competition at Texas A&M the bar was set high. The team got to work early in the fall 2011 coming up with a design for the year-long competition. The rules again stipulated that the bridge be 22’ long including a 5’ long cantilever at one end. The team opted to imitate portions of its 2010-11 bridge by creating a new “stacked beam” style design. The new design featured lighter webbing members, more optimization of material over the entire bridge, and newly designed connectors to replace the dovetail design used last year. RISA 3D was used to model the structural envelope of the bridge under all of the possible load cases prior to creating shop drawings using AutoCAD in early November.
After the thanksgiving break from classes, fabrication began at the Wilson Center. A good group of new members became involved during the course of the fabrication which will serve the team well going into the future. The team worked hard fabricating the bridge during the months of December, January, and February in order to achieve their ambitious goal of completing the bridge one month before the regional competition. Upon completing the fabrication, the team set an aggressive practice schedule, assembling the bridge at least 5 nights a week in preparation for the competition in early April.
The weekend of March 30th the team traveled to Northern Ohio University in Ada, Ohio for the 2012 North Central Regional Competition. The team upheld its reputation for excellence, finishing 1st overall! In addition the team took first place in lightness, stiffness, and efficiency categories. The team posted a rare perfect run, finishing with zero assembly penalties, zero dimensional violations, and one of its quickest assembly times compared to all of the practice runs. This was the team’s second 1st place finish in the past 3 years and was enough to earn the team its 4th consecutive invitation to the national competition held at Clemson University. At the national competition, our team put together a run very similar to our regional competition with only one construction penalty. The team’s excellent performance was good enough for an 18th place overall finish.
Coming into the current school year, our team has lofty goals; among them are a second consecutive regional competition championship, and a return to the top ten at the national competition which will be held at the University of Washington in Seattle. These goals are well within reach as the team has an excellent core group of members returning from last year. First year team captain Matt Hartigan (CEE B.S.E., 2013) will be in an excellent position to lead the team toward its goals as he brings two years of previous experience on the team.
Work has already begun designing the 2012-13 bridge. The team is holding weekly design meetings where new and veteran members can meet to discuss design challenges and strategies. At the meetings, weekly goals are set to work towards achieving the team’s long term goals. Subgroups designing the bridge structure as well as the connections have been formed and those groups are each working towards completing their portion so fabrication can begin. The team is again aiming to finish the bridge one month prior to the regional competition in order to prepare for timed construction.
Excitement is building for this young team and the sky is the limit. Anybody interested in learning more about the team or individuals interested in contributing to the team can contact team captain Matt Hartigan (firstname.lastname@example.org).