In This Section
About the Competition
AISC's Student Steel Bridge Competition is an annual competition that challenges student teams to develop a scale-model steel bridge. The team must determine how to fabricate their bridge and then plan for an efficient assembly under timed construction at the competition. Bridges are then load tested and weighed. The bridge must span approximately 20 feet, carry 2,500 pounds, and must meet all other specifications of the competition rules. Bridge aesthetics are also judged and considered in the final results of the competition.
The mission of AISC's Student Steel Bridge Competion is to challenge students to extend their classroom knowledge to a practical and hands-on steel-design project that grows their interpersonal and professional skills, encourages innovation, and fosters impactful relationships between students and industry professionals.
The Student Steel Bridge Competition began with three schools (Lawrence Tech, Michigan Tech, and Wayne State) competing in a parking lot at Lawrence Institute of Technology, in 1987. The competition consisted of designing, fabricating, and building a 20’ long, 3’-6” wide steel bridge, and was developed to give students a hands-on learning experience that mimics “real-world” scenarios. Following the success of the first competition, other local contests developed around the country, each claiming to have the best bridges in the country. To determine the top bridge, in 1992, Michigan State University challenged all bridge teams to a competition, in which thirteen schools competed in the first national competition. Over the last twenty-five years, the popularity of the competiton has grown, and today there are approximately two hundred schools that compete each year across the country.
Robert Shaw, former Associate Director of Education at AISC, coordinated the first steel bridge competition in 1987. His development of a “hands-on” experience gave students an opportunity to learn in a unique, fun, and challenging setting that could not be attained in the classroom.
Frank Hatfield was the faculty adviser for the first Michigan State bridge team in 1988. After winning the first five Michigan bridge competitions, Frank challenged bridge teams from around the country to the first national competition, and hosted the event at Michigan State in 1992. Every year since through 2018, Frank had been heavily involved in developing the rules of each year’s competition. He was also responsible for drafting clarifications to any questions regarding the posted rules.
John Parucki first participated in the national competition as a judge in 1994. In the following year, he became the National Head Judge, and has maintained this position ever since. John has also been a major advocate for the competition, meeting with new schools to explain the competition, and advising host schools on the planning of the event.
2018 SSBC Spectators
Is the Student Steel Bridge Competition still happening in 2019?
Yes. The AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition is alive and well, and we intend to continue to grow and improve it. Rules were issued in August as expected, and all colleges and universities in the U.S. and U.S. territories with an engineering or engineering technology program are invited to participate. Teams at schools located outside of the U.S. and U.S. territories may request to participate in Regional Events as Guest Teams. (View more on Guest Team participation.) AISC will support and help to coordinate Regional Events as desired by the host schools. All you need to participate is a student team and a faculty advisor. The team can be an ASCE student chapter, a club, or just a group of students with a faculty advisor. (Revised 10.31.18)
Are AISC and ASCE both still partners in the Student Steel Bridge Competition?
No. With respect and appreciation for our many years together as partners, AISC decided to separate from ASCE because differences in our organizational goals grew to become fundamentally incompatible.
What differences caused AISC to separate from ASCE?
There are two main differences that we’ve discussed between us for several years:
- AISC has a domestic focus while ASCE has international growth goals.
- AISC prefers fewer eligibility restrictions while ASCE desires to increase ASCE Chapter requirements in order to qualify to participate.
These differences are not new and were small at first but have both grown with time. They have been discussed progressively for many years, and previously, we found common ground. We didn’t find common ground this time.
Did AISC and ASCE attempt to resolve these differences?
Yes. When ASCE informed AISC in May 2018 that they had made changes to their eligibility criteria and would like to expand international participation, AISC responded that such changes were not agreeable. We actively discussed possible solutions for the two months between then and August 2018. Multiple compromise proposals were put on the table, but none were found acceptable to both AISC and ASCE.
Why was this separation necessary for August 2018?
The annual calendar of events required the start of activities for the 2019 Competition in August of 2018. With no other option left on the table, AISC informed ASCE of our decision.
Did AISC separate because of a vote taken by its Board of Directors?
No. This has been claimed but is not correct; there was no such vote. The AISC Board was updated on the state of the disagreement between AISC and ASCE. They confirmed that the decisions were for AISC staff to make. Thereafter, AISC staff made the decision to inform ASCE we would separate.
Has AISC decided to include only U.S. schools in the AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition?
No. While AISC previously announced that international schools were no longer eligible to participate, we have since found a workable compromise that will allow participation by international teams as Guest Teams in Regional Events. Guest Teams may participate at the discretion of the Regional Event Host School. Guest Teams are not eligible to receive monetary support from AISC and may not advance to the National Finals. View more on Guest Team participation. (Revised 10.31.18)
What are AISC’s goals for the bridge teams?
We want a simple Competition that’s fun, meaningful, and rewarding. We want to give you the rare opportunity to design, build, and test a structure and to experience teamwork, project planning, leadership, and project management from conception through construction. We'll keep the process simple, provide practical value, and focus on you and the Competition.
What are AISC’s goals for the regional Competitions?
We believe the regional Competitions should be just that: groups of nearby schools where the gathering can help foster current and future professional relationships.
What are AISC’s goals for the national Competition?
We want the national Competition to parallel the regionals with the top-performing bridge teams in each regional Competition meeting.
What is AISC doing for the international schools who are affected by this decision?
Participation by international teams as Guest Teams is permitted at the discretion of the Regional Event Host School. Guest Teams are not eligible to receive monetary support from AISC and may not advance to the National Finals. View more on Guest Team participation.
Additionally, the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC) already operates a parallel national competition in Canada. We have offered to share our rules and help them if they desire our assistance. We also have offered to assist the Instituto Mexicano de la Construcción en Acero (IMCA) to establish a national competition in Mexico. In any other country, AISC is happy to work with its equivalent organization in that country to help them create a competition in their country. (Revised 10.31.18)
Are domestic ASCE student chapters still welcome to participate?
Yes. AISC welcomes all domestic ASCE student chapters to participate in the AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition. This affiliation is not required, however, and bridge teams can be created separately from ASCE student chapter activities. It's up to you.
Can a regional Competition be hosted in conjunction with a domestic ASCE regional conference?
Yes. AISC welcomes any domestic host school that wishes to hold their Regional Event as an independent event in conjunction with their ASCE regional student event weekend. This is not required, however, and it can be held as a standalone event on a different date. It's up to the host.
Does AISC provide insurance for Regional Events and the National Finals?
Yes, AISC has both a General Liability and Umbrella coverage for all of the Regional Events and the National Finals.
How do we participate in the 2019 AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition?
All information related to the 2019 AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition can be found at www.aisc.org/ssbc. Any updates also will be posted there as well.
What’s a basic snapshot of the new process?
There are no significant changes to the format of the Competition and the new process is largely similar to the old process. Following is a snapshot of the basics:
- Obtain the 2019 Rules and start designing your bridge!
- Register your team by December 31.
- All schools in the U.S. and U.S. territories with an engineering or engineering technology program are eligible to participate. Guest Teams may participate at the discretion of the Regional Event Host School. View more on Guest Team participation.
- A faculty advisor is required.
- Requirements and the registration form can be found on AISC website.
What are AISC’s eligibility requirements for participation?
You must represent a school in the U.S. or U.S. territories with an engineering or engineering technology program to be eligible to participate. You also must have a faculty advisor. Teams at schools located outside of the U.S. and U.S. territories may request to participate as Guest Teams at the discretion of the Regional Event Host School. View more on Guest Team participation. (Revised 10.31.18)
How will the regional Competitions work?
You will participate in a Regional Event organized by a host school and AISC. Regional divisions remain the same as the U.S. ASCE conferences. Exceptions may be made for new schools and special cases. Dates and locations of the Regional Events are posted on the AISC website (here). Some Regional Events may be held concurrently with the ASCE conference as an independent event. Domestic schools participating at a Regional Event will receive $500 in funding from AISC. Guest Teams are not eligible to receive monetary support from AISC. View more on Guest Team participation. (Revised 12.05.18)
How will the National Finals work?
The AISC Student Steel Bridge Competition - 2019 National Finals will be held on May 31 and June 1 at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. The highest-scoring domestic teams at the Regional Events will qualify for the National Finals. Schools participating at the National Finals will receive at least $500 funding from AISC. (Revised 12.05.18)
Can AISC help us make connection to our local steel industry to help us?
Yes. AISC will help you connect to a local steel fabricator, if you need our help.
Can AISC help us in other ways?
Yes. Tell us what you need, and we’ll do whatever we can. Please contact Christina Harber, AISC Director of Education (email@example.com; 312.670.8312), Maria Mnookin, AISC Education Program Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org; 312.670.5418), or Sadie Brown, AISC Special Event Planner (email@example.com; 312.802.4170). (Revised 12.05.18)