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The Penn State Steel Bridge Team is a student-run organization sponsored by AISC that offers civil engineering students a chance to participate in a practical design and build competition. A 1/10th scale steel bridge is designed to comply with the AISC rules and must be assembled quickly on site at the competition. The bridge must also have minimal deflection when a 2,600-pound load is applied. Every year the steel bridge team raises its expectations and seeks to improve at the competition. The student members are responsible for completely designing and fabricating the bridge from start to finish. This gives the members the valuable opportunity of taking what was learned in the classroom, and applying it in a real-life setting.
During the fall semester the team does several technical activities such as fundraising, training, design, both 2-D and 3-D modeling, and ordering the necessary steel and fabrication materials. Modeling programs such as AutoCAD and structural analysis software such as SAP2000 have become essential tools for making the bridge come together effectively. Bridge designs must closely adhere to the rules developed by AISC, while developing new and innovative ideas to improve designs from year-to-year.
In the spring semester the focus is shifted to fabricating the bridge using the 2-D drawings that were drafted in the fall. Complete fabrication, including cutting, grinding, positioning, and welding every member of the bridge is done by the team. Later in the spring semester the construction team will practice multiple nights a week assembling the bridge until they have become efficient at the timed process.
Throughout the year, students gain unmatched knowledge of the application of the structural theories and specifications that are presented in the classroom. These hands-on experiences give the team members the competitive edge in any and all of their future career paths. Team members are also given the unparalleled privilege to represent Penn State at the competition. Together, these opportunities allow the team members become skilled and driven engineers.
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