Steel Shots: Student Steel Bridge Season Kicks Off

Student team members from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México hustle to assemble their steel bridge at this year’s first Student Steel Bridge regional competition, held at the University of Texas, Austin, earlier this month. Photo: AISC 

Fourteen university teams from Texas and Mexico gathered at the University of Texas, Austin, on January 17 for the first ASCE/AISC Student Steel Bridge regional competition of 2015. The University of Texas, San Antonio, won first place; the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México took second; and third place went to Texas A&M University.

Now in its 24th year, the competition brings together engineering students from across North America to assemble their own designed and fabricated steel bridges while striving for the shortest time under a specific set of building rules that change each year.

“It’s exciting to watch the next generation of structural engineers come together and work with such passion and enthusiasm,” said Nancy Gavlin, AISC director of education. “The competition poses real-world challenges that the students face with ingenuity and professionalism.”

Even at one-tenth the size of a full-scale bridge, the experience is quite comparable to the real thing. Participating students apply engineering principles and theory, culminating in a steel structure that meets client specifications and optimizes both performance and economy. They also gain valuable practical experience in structural design, fabrication processes, construction planning, organization, project management and teamwork.

Students’ bridges are judged in the following categories: display, construction speed, stiffness, lightness, construction economy and structural efficiency. The teams with the best combined rankings across all six categories earn overall award recognition.

Throughout the academic year, the student teams work for months perfecting the design, fabrication and construction of each bridge. To reach the national event, teams must place among the top performing schools in one of 18 regional competitions held across the country each spring. Last year, more than 200 schools competed in the regional competitions; 49 of them qualified for nationals.

The 2015 National Student Steel Bridge Competition finals will be held May 22-23 at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. For more information, visit or