A team of University of New Orleans engineering students won the steel bridge competition at the ASCE 2023 Gulf Coast Student Symposium, held March 9-11 at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. UNO’s team beat out 15 other universities from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
The Privateers will advance to the national competition in June in San Diego, CA.
The on-site construction student team members are Yelitza Perez, Gavin Trinh, Steven Hernandez, Maria Umanzor and Francisco Espinoza. All are civil engineering majors, with the exception of Espinoza, who is majoring in construction management. Several additional civil engineering students contributed to the design and fabrication. It was the first time UNO competed in the steel bridge event since 2018.
“Though our UNO civil engineering program is small relative to some of the universities we competed against, we are fortunate to have strong support from UNO President Dr. John Nicklow, Dr. Robert A. Savoie College of Engineering Dean Dr. Lizette Chevalier and the local civil engineering industry. Our students have unbelievable perseverance to make things happen,” said Gianna Cothren, professor of civil engineering and ASCE faculty adviser. “Our team captain, Yelitza Perez, saw the steel bridge competition for the first time in 2022 and became determined to compete the following year. She put together a team of civil engineering students who had never seen this competition and won first place overall in 2023. It’s simply amazing what driven students can accomplish.”
The American Institute of Steel Construction and American Society of Civil Engineers sponsor the steel bridge competition as an annual event intended to demonstrate knowledge and skills of future generation design professionals. The idea of the competition is to extend the classroom knowledge with a full project experience that involves design, fabrication, erection and testing of a steel bridge that meets the client’s specifications while balancing performance and economy.
The 23-foot-long steel bridge is a 1 to 10 scaled model designed and fabricated by students in UNO’s Civil Engineer Structural lab. The competition includes structural costs based on total weight; construction cost based on the number of builders in a timed race to erect the bridge; and safety, with time penalties for dropping bolts, nuts or tools and stepping outside the construction zone or in the river. Aesthetics and use of materials that promote robustness without wastefulness are also judged in overall performance.
UNO won first place overall and also received individual awards of excellence in the categories of stiffness, lightness and structural efficiency. The team’s victory comes with an invitation to compete in the National AISC Steel Bridge Competition in San Diego from June 2-3, 2023.
UNO will host the 2024 ASCE Gulf Coast Student Symposium on March 7-11. The event will include the steel bridge, concrete canoe, surveying and sustainability competitions, along with several other competitive civil engineering events.
The team is trying to raise additional funds for steel materials and tools to ship the steel bridge to San Diego and to cover the team’s travel costs. To donate, click here.