Judges at New Jersey’s annual bridge building competition bestowed this past weekend first place upon a civil engineering team from New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Ten students from NJIT now head next month to compete Memorial Day weekend at the University of Utah.
Besting teams from Rutgers University—New Brunswick, Stevens Institute and Rowan University, the NJIT undergraduates not only won the overall competition, but also grabbed top honors for constructing a structure quickly and with no lost time, while also creating a structurally efficient, light, stiff bridge.
“I’m so proud of our students,” said John Schuring, PhD, a professor in the civil engineering department at NJIT, and an advisor to the undergraduate team. “Taking part in a competition requires creativity and tenacity, plus time. Design of the bridge began early last fall at NJIT with weekly team meetings to brainstorm concepts followed by rigorous structural calculations and computer assisted design work.”
For these competitions, students design, fabricate, and test a reduced scale bridge using complex material specifications and geometric requirements. Teams are timed as they build their bridges in front of judges, who are practicing structural engineers. The NJIT team enjoys the strongest record among the metropolitan region’s engineering schools, qualifying for five out of six of these national competitions.
“We pursued a modified truss this year to achieve lightness without sacrificing structural integrity,” said team captain Britain Materek, a senior, from Parsippany. The team built a 22-foot span bridge which exhibited a deflection of 0.35 inches under a total test load of 2500 pounds. “This outcome matched our computer prediction quite closely,” noted Materek.
Junior Brian Felber, of Lake Hiawatha, was responsible for logistics. “The time and efficiency of bridge construction is an important factor, just as it is in the real world,” Felber said. The team built their winning entry in 22 minutes, which turned out to be the best building time among contestants. Customized power tools, designed and built by the students, helped.
“We realized that we needed to develop special tools to reach and torque difficult connections over the simulated river,” explained Steve Flormann, a junior from West Milford and a tool innovator. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” added Schuring.
Team members included Charles Cooper, Maplewood; Giancarlo Fricano, Bridgewater; Nicholas Gregory, Cedar Knolls; Indira Hernandez-Naranjo, Elizabeth; Vincent Manners, Trenton; Anthony Massari, Paramus; Diana Rodriguez, Rahway. Frank Johansson, NJIT Machine Shop, and Alan Slaughter, PhD, adjunct professor, civil engineering department, also participated.
The American Institute of Steel Construction in conjunction with the American Society of Civil Engineers sponsors this annual competition to foster excellence among the nation’s civil engineering programs. For more information about the civil engineering program at NJIT call Schuring at 973-596-5849; to view photos of the NJIT team in action, visit http://bridge.njit.edu.