UAF Steel Bridge Team Heads to National Finals

May 11, 2022 | Education, Engineering, News

UAF steel bridge team

Zach Miller, front, and Branden Hansen help build UAF’s steel bridge entry during the Pacific Northwest regional competition on April 10.

Leif Van Cise | UAF

UAF is sending a team back to the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) national championships.

A Familiar Trip 

The UAF squad earned the top score last month in the Pacific Northwest Regional AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition, finishing in first place in five of the six judging categories.

The annual engineering contest challenges students to design and build a steel bridge. Judges evaluate their work using several criteria, including strength, efficiency, and construction speed.

The 1st place regional finish earned UAF a spot in the national finals being held May 27-28 at Virginia Tech university. UAF has advanced to the championship round in six of the last seven competitions.

The Pacific Northwest regional competition was held virtually on April 10. However, the UAF team was eager to travel after two years of pandemic restrictions, so they decided to compete as an unofficial entry in the Southwest regional competition in Las Vegas a few days later. The Nanooks dominated in the desert, too, claiming the top score.

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Those twin triumphs have the team confident that they can win a national title, says team captain Ben VanderHart. UAF is typically a top-ten finisher at nationals but hasn’t won the title since 1993.

VanderHart, a new graduate of UAF’s civil engineering program and the designer of this year’s entry, says the squad will spend the weeks ahead fine-tuning their bridge to better compete with the best teams in the country.

“Steel bridge has been the highlight of college. I’m sure I’ve spent more time on it than my classes,” VanderHart says with a laugh. “A win at nationals, or at least a top-three performance, would be a great cap to my college career.”

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