Lakehead University Alumni Magazine

Great Grads: Champion Bridge Builders Have Nerves of Steel

Civil Engineering Team Places First at 2011 AISC/ASCE U.S. National Student Steel Bridge Competition

Published October 24, 2011
Engineering student winners
(l-r): Dave Enns, Kristen Myles, Damien Ch'ng, Cory Goulet, and Chris Kukkee
┬ęDaniela Weaver Photography

Lakehead's bridge building team proved their mettle at the 2011 AISC/ASCE U.S. National Student Steel Bridge Competition by winning the highly coveted first place award. Forty-eight university teams participated in this invitational competition showcasing the best in contemporary bridge building. The Lakehead team travelled to host university Texas A & M where they built a 22-foot-long scale model bridge, weighing only 141 pounds, in an astonishing 4.74 minutes.

Graduating civil engineering students Damien Ch'ng, Kristen Myles, Dave Enns, Chris Kukkee, and Cory Goulet demonstrated that they thrived on Lakehead's emphasis on independent critical thinking as well as the encouragement of their faculty advisors Professor Tony Gillies and Professor Timo Tikka. As Professor Gillies points out, "Their elegant bridge design solution for this year's competition was the lightest and fastest built bridge in the competition, yet performed superbly in structural efficiency, which is a measure of design excellence."

Bridge specifications for the competition change every year so that students are confronted by new challenges similar to those they will face in the work world. This year's project required the design and simulated construction of a deck bridge spanning a river running through a national park. The team's engineering feat is chronicled in "Two Decades of National Steel Bridge Competition," an article in the July 2011 issue of the American magazine Modern Steel Construction (MSC).

In the article, team member Dave Enns reveals that "the troubleshooting experiences on this project were really valuable. It's a prime example of showing up on a job site and site conditions aren't exactly what you anticipated and making corrections on the fly." Even though the team maintained its calm under pressure, Professor Tikka confessed, "It gets really nerve wracking when the assembled bridges are loaded with 2,500 pounds of angle iron to simulate a loaded truck crossing the bridge."

All the hard work and planning coalesced on competition day when the team not only won first place overall but also came in first in the categories of construction speed, lightness, and efficiency. This achievement made them the first Canadian team to win in the competition's twenty-year history.

competition photos of the students building their first place bridge design
┬ęDaniela Weaver Photography

Watch the exciting YouTube video of the construction of the 2011 championship bridge at:

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