Steel bridge competition

Steel bridge competition

The steel bridge competition is a student contest that tests the knowledge and practicality of the participating university teams in the field of structural engineering. Ideally, the design and fabrication of the bridge is conceived and completed entirely by the students and the participation of the students in the process is highly encouraged. Some schools may not have the proper facilities and guidance necessary to erect the model bridge and may work with a commercial fabricator. However, the students must be fully responsible for the design and instructions, they must coordinate with the fabricator, and they must monitor the construction process.

The bridges must follow specifications explained in the rule book. The rules of the competition are changed annually to further enhance the quality of the competition and to prevent the submission of an already existing bridge.

The competition is sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction and cosponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Iron and Steel Institute, the National Steel Bridge Alliance, Nucor Corporation, and The James F. Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation.


The steel bridge competition, in its embryonic form, began as a miniature bridge design competition using balsa wood to see which competitor's bridge is the best. Robert E. Shaw, who managed college relations for the American Institute of Steel Construction initiated the steel bridge competition in the spring of 1987 and was honored by the AISC in 2000 for his achievement. The first teams to compete were Lawrence Technological University(who hosted the competition), Wayne State University, and Michigan State University who won the first few competitions. Soon after, other universities from different regions of the United States began local steel bridge competitions and on 1992, Fromy Rosenberg, who was the new Director of AISC College Relations, began the first ever National Student Steel Bridge Competition.


1992 Michigan State University Michigan State University
1993 Southern Polytechnic State University University of Alaska Fairbanks
1994 San Diego State University Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
1995 University of Florida North Dakota State University
1996 SUNY Buffalo University of Alaska, Anchorage
1997 California State Polytechnic University, Pomona University of Florida
1998 Colorado State University University of Southwestern Louisiana
1999 University of Alaska, Anchorage University of Nevada, Reno
2000 Texas A&M University California State University, Chico
2001 Clemson University Clemson University
2002 University of Wisconsin, Madison North Dakota State University
2003 San Diego State University University of Michigan
2004 Colorado School of Mines North Dakota State University
2005 University of Central Florida University of California, Davis
2006 University of Utah North Dakota State University
2007 California State University, Northridge North Dakota State University
2008 University of Florida University of California, Berkeley


For a full description of the 2008 rules and regulations, including the scoring go to: Steel Bridge 2008 Rules

The different categories in the competition that will be judged are:

  1. Display - Includes appearance of bridge, identification of the school on the bridge, and the poster that explains the thought process and includes sponsors, advisors, and technicians. (Display is only used as a tie breaker, however, the lack of information either on the poster or on the bridge itself will results in an added weight penalty to the bridge)
  2. Construction Speed - The team that constructs the bridge with the quickest time (including added time penalties) wins this category
  3. Construction economy - A formula is devised to calculate a dollar amount based on the number of builders, the time of the assembly, and the use of temporary piers. The team with the lowest dollar amount wins this category
  4. Lightness - The team with the lightest bridge (including weight penalties) wins this category.
  5. Stiffness - The team with the lowest aggregate deflection wins this category.
  6. Structural efficiency - A formula is devised to calculate a dollar amount based on the weight and deflection of the bridge. The team with the lowest dollar amount wins this category

The overall winner has the lowest sum from the construction economy and structural efficiency categories.

Regional and National Competition

Getting to the National Competition - Teams from different regions in this nation competes locally then whoever advances will meet other finalist from around the nation.

  • In a region of 1-4 teams, the top competitor advances to nationals
  • In a region of 5-10 teams, the top two competitor advances to nationals
  • In a region with 11 or more teams, the top three competitors advances to nationals.


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