University Programs

About the Competition

The 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.

UW-Platteville 2018


The mission of the Student Steel Bridge Competition 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 competition has grown, and today there are approximately two hundred schools that compete each year across the country.

    Key Figures

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 five consecutive Michigan bridge competitions, the Spartan Spanners 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 maintained that position for 27 years, retiring in 2022.  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