MIT Steel Bridge Team breaks into the top 10 at national competition

June 3, 2010

By Denise Brehm
Civil & Environmental Engineering

The regionally top-ranked MIT Steel Bridge Team placed sixth at the national competition at Purdue University May 29, an extraordinary feat for this young team of undergraduates in its fourth year of participation. MIT ranked first among private universities.

Participants in the competition were required to design a 21-foot bridge that can be assembled quickly (the top speed this year was 3 minutes, 12 seconds) and withstand loads of 2,500 pounds with little deflection or sag. While the design rules change annually, all bridge pieces must fit into small boxes (about 3.5 feet long), and during construction, each team member is allowed to enter only certain portions of the staging area and to hold only one bridge piece at a time. This requires team members to pass pieces from hand to hand, relay-race style, as they construct the bridge.

The students’ success this year is due largely to their enthusiasm, willingness to put in late nights and their ability to work well under deadline pressure. Another very important factor was their bridge design, which benefitted from the work of Pierre Ghisbain, a graduate student advisor to the team whose area of research is eart