MIT Steel Bridge Team wins first place in the regional competition held Saturday at MIT

April 25, 2013

By Denise Brehm
Civil & Environmental Engineering

The CEE-sponsored MIT Steel Bridge Team won first place at the New England regional steel bridge competition held on campus Saturday, April 20. Université Laval placed second, followed by the University of Massachusetts, Lowell in third place.

Grant Iwamoto (left) and Maria Tou, co-captain of the MIT Steel Bridge team, construct the bridge during the regional competition at MIT. Photo / Rudolph Photography
Grant Iwamoto (left) and Maria Tou, co-captain of the MIT Steel Bridge team, construct the bridge during the regional competition at MIT. Photo / Rudolph Photography
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The competition, which was hosted by CEE, was scheduled to begin early Saturday morning, but was delayed by the lockdown in the Boston area that followed the shooting death of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and the Boston marathon bombings. 

Although the annual conference of the student chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) scheduled for Friday evening had to be canceled, the event organizers — M.Eng. students Leonidia Garbis ’12 and Matthew Pires ’10 and CEE administrative officer Patricia Dixon — refused to give up on the competition. In the end, they were able to hold the event with a delayed start time of 2 p.m. Saturday. 

Some of the teams arrived at their hotels outside the city Friday afternoon, while others waited for word Saturday morning before driving to Boston. Nine of the 13 visiting teams that had registered for the event were on hand Saturday in Johnson Athletic Center. The competition lasted until 8:30 p.m. and winners were announced an hour later.

“Coordination was key,” said Pires, who was a steel bridge team member as an undergraduate. “Pat handled food, Leoni communicated with the teams, and I worked with MIT Facilities for hours Friday before and after the lockdown in Boston was lifted.”

Garbis, also a steel bridge team member during her undergraduate years, credited the regional teams' courage and flexibility. “It was truly amazing to see the support from the other schools and everyone's willingness to help in hopes of seeing the competition happen,” she said. “Our region really did a good job coming together.”

Professor Andrew Whittle, department head of CEE, praised the MIT students involved with the event. “I was truly impressed and inspired by the leadership shown by Leoni and Matt in pulling this event together and by the tremendous spirit and enthusiasm of our team,” said Whittle. “They did a wonderful job in representing MIT — with an outstanding bridge design and tremendous coordination in the construction time trial.” 

An important win for the team

The MIT team, now in its seventh year, also worked hard for many months in preparation for the competition, but as team co-captain Nicky Soane said, the win was never a sure bet.

“Though our team triumphed and won first place in the regional competition, it was never a guarantee,” said Soane, a senior who coordinated the team effort with co-captain Maria Tou, a junior. “That’s why we spent months designing and fabricating a bridge, followed by orchestrating and perfecting its construction sequence in preparation for the regional competition.”

Each team created an original design for an approximately 20-foot bridge that can be constructed quickly, usually in less than 10 minutes. Bridges are created for a hypothetical site whose requirements change each year. Teams are judged on a combination of elements, including bridge design and lightness, its ability