150lb Steel Bridge on Display in Geisel Library through December

Posted On: December 7, 2015

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Every year, students from the UC San Diego Society of Civil and Structural Engineers (SCSE) design, fabricate, and construct a scaled model steel bridge for the purpose of competing in the American Society of Civil Engineers annual Pacific Southwest Conference. Last year’s challenge was no different. A small group of students came together in the fall of 2014 to apply the knowledge learned in class to design a bridge that would be competitive in the following categories: aesthetics, weight, timed construction, as well as other criteria.

Supervised by four faculty advisors, three of whom are structural engineering professors and staff from the Campus Research Machine Shop (CRMS), the team of students gathered in a classroom setting last fall to model and analyze the steel bridge through an iterative process until an optimal design was achieved. To have the optimal design, a bridge has to be sufficiently light, while being stiff enough to pass the vertical and lateral load tests. The bridge must also be fast and easy to construct.

After completing all the necessary planning documents, the fabrication and manufacturing phases began. Using steel ordered from local companies, every component of the bridge was cut, lathed, milled, and welded by individual members of the team. During this time, the bridge was further fine-tuned to improve performance and avoid potential problems. Upon completion, the construction team routinely practiced assembling the bridge under simulated real-world conditions in order to prepare for the upcoming Pacific Southwest Conference (PSWC).

From April 9 to 11, 2015, the PSWC tested the civil engineering skills of more than 1,000 students from 18 universities throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, and Hawaii. The Conference included a wide range of competition areas, including, concrete canoe, steel bridge, environmental design, geotechnical design, surveying, quiz bowl, technical paper, concrete bowling, several sports tournaments, and more.

The Library believes it is important to display items illustrating the creativity, experiences, skills, and course or co-curricular work of UC San Diego students, and thus, jumped at the opportunity to showcase the structure that measures 46″ wide, 18.5′ long, 3-4′ tall and weighs approximately 150lbs. In order to get such a large structure into the building, the group of students were called upon once again to reassemble the bridge in the Library for display, after repairing damage from stress and testing during the competition.

On display near the Media Desk in Geisel West 1st floor through December 2015, the bridge is accompanied by a poster explaining the process of building the bridge, and a photo of the engineering team of students that constructed it. For more information about the bridge on display, contact the Library’s engineering subject specialist, Dave Schmidt at dschmidt@ucsd.edu.


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