• Building a bridge
    By Stefan Hard
     | April 29,2013

    Stefan Hard / Staff Photo Norwich University civil engineering program students begin a timed construction of a bridge Saturday in the Steel Bridge Scrimmage at Norwich.

    How fast can you build a bridge that will hold 2, 500 pounds?

    That was one of the questions that drove an unusual competition Saturday at Norwich University in Northfield. Three university civil engineering teams, one from Norwich, one from the University of Vermont, and one from the University of New Hampshire competed in the Steel Bridge Scrimmage inside Kreitzberg Arena.

    The three civil engineering teams had been scheduled to compete with about a dozen other college teams in mid-April at the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass., but the Boston metro transportation shutdown and high-security atmosphere that followed the Boston Marathon bombings didn’t allow the three teams to attend the competition in Cambridge, so a substitute was arranged and Saturday’s Steel Bridge Scrimmage was born.

    The bridge-building competitions, held each year with fresh design requirements, are sanctioned by the American Institute of Steel Construction and the Association of Civil Engineering. Saturday’s mini-meet may not officially count, but the students involved showed no signs of not taking the competition seriously, Norwich civil engineering professor Ed Schmeckpeper said his students each put more than 100 hours into the design and fabrication of their bridges and were sorely disappointed to miss the MIT meet.

    The Norwich team assembled their bridge in about 10 minutes, besting UVM’s time of 29 minutes, but not as quick as the UNH team’s time of six minutes. Norwich senior Noah Clark was proud of his team’s ten-minute performance in assembling their built-up three-plate girder design painted in Norwich colors of maroon and gold.

    “We were clicking today,” said Clark, holding a drill and tilting his hard hat back to wipe his brow. It wasn’t all about speed, however.

    The bridges had to take loads of 2,500 pounds, with 1,000 pounds of that total cantilevered. The bridges also had to meet dimensional standards, and were scored by how much weight they took as a ratio of load to the weight of the structure itself. UVM’s bridge, utilizing a trussed arch, weighed only 120 pounds, followd by Norwich’s bridge at 263 pounds, and UNH with the heaviest structure, tipping the scales at 284 pounds.

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