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UAF Steel Bridge Team Earns Spot in National Competition

Apr 29, 2019 | Architecture, Construction, Education, Engineering, Featured, News

Members of UAF’s 2019 Steel Bridge Team gather at the regional competition in Lacey, Washington. They are, from left, advisor Wilhelm Muench, Trevor Morton, Rachel Bruesch, Zach Miller, Jacques Neptune, Juliana Rivera, Ben VanderHart, Nathan “Larry” Hiles, Brandon Hansen, and team captain Taylor Tharp.

Taylor Tharp | UAF

A team of University of Alaska Fairbanks students will compete in a national engineering contest after earning the top score in the 2019 Pacific Northwest Regional AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition.

The UAF Steel Bridge Team won the regional contest on April 11-12 at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. Nine students from the UAF team will travel to the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Illinois, on May 31, to compete in the national bridge-building competition.

The annual contest, which is sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction, is a test of skill and knowledge for engineering students. Teams design and fabricate a steel-framed bridge and are judged in a variety of categories, including efficiency, stiffness, speed of construction and weight. UAF students spent more than 1,500 hours fabricating the bridge during the spring semester alone, according to team captain Taylor Tharp.

“Basically, they have to spend that time building the entire bridge from scratch,” said Wilhelm Muench, co-advisor for the team and an instructor with the UAF College of Engineering and Mines. “Really, the competition itself is kind of the easy part.”

The judging guidelines change each year, requiring teams to develop new designs for each competition. In 2019, teams had to build a lightweight bridge that deflected less than an inch under a 2,500-pound load and could be quickly assembled during a timed construction.

This is the fourth time in the past five years that UAF claimed the top spot in regionals. UAF won the national competition in 1993.

Students who traveled to the regional competition included Tharp, Trevor Morton, Rachel Bruesch, Zach Miller, Jacques Neptune, Juliana Rivera, Ben VanderHart, Nathan “Larry” Hiles and Brandon Hansen. The team advisors are Muench and J. Leroy Hulsey.

UAF Steel Bridge Team members Larry Hiles, left, and Juliana Rivera help construct the team’s winning entry at the regional competition in Lacey, Washington.

Taylor Tharp | UAF

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