The CEE Steel Bridge Team placed first at the National Student Steel Bridge Competition held at the University of Washington May 31-June 1. This is the second year in a row that the team has won the first place title and the third time over all.
Their entry, TyranniCAL, came in first for lightness and efficiency and second in economy—earning them a first overall against 49 other universities from across the US, Canada, and Mexico.
See video of the team assembling TyranniCAL at Nationals.
We interviewed Fayad Rahman, Bridge project manager, on the win.
Berkeley took first place at Nationals 2 years in a row! Why do you think that is?
There really is no one secret ingredient. Both years, we worked very hard to create bridges that would be both structurally efficient and easy to construct, trying our best not to compromise one of these goals for the other. Our designers, fabricators, and construction team have been extremely dedicated and I’m grateful that we were able to see our efforts pay off.
Every year, the UC Berkeley Steel Bridge team works hard to make sure that we impart as much of our knowledge as we can to the next generation of team members. Steel Bridge is a learning experience and we want to make sure that our team never has to reinvent the wheel. We owe a huge part of the success we’ve had over the last 2 years to the team members that came before us, the innovations they made, and the lessons they learned.
What were some of the highlights of the team's time at Nationals?
This year’s Nationals had its fair share of nerve-wracking moments. After we failed the lateral test in 2011, we’ve made it a point to test our bridge right up until competition. When we tested it 2 nights before the big day, we found out that our bridge would start tipping over during the test if the floor isn't level. We’d never had this problem before as previous bridges were heavy enough to balance the force of the lateral load. Thankfully, the floor was quite level at the competition and we were all relieved when we passed the dreaded lateral test.
During the loading stage of competition, we were shocked to find that the deflection readings were twice as much as we were expecting. We were extremely worried but soon found out that all the teams had had similar issues. There is an incredible amount that goes into organizing the national competition, but I hope that they can look into and resolve this issue for next year.
How did Berkeley manage to build such a light bridge?
Our designers went through countless iterations of the bridge, optimizing it to be super light. This year’s bridge weighed 67 pounds while last year’s weighed 138. This was in large part due to the fact that the new rules called for a bridge that was 5 feet shorter in length. The reduced span of the bridge also allowed us to use much lighter sections without worrying about excessive deflections.
Did you know you had nailed it—or were you surprised at the win? Which schools were your closest competitors?
Going into the competition, we had a prediction of what our score was going to be, and by that standard, we knew we had performed well after the construction run and load tests. At that point, you can only hope that your score stacks up well against the competition.
We knew that MIT and UC Davis would be close competitors for first place. MIT had done an amazing job at Nationals the year before as did UC Davis at this year’s MidPac.
What will you always remember about Nationals?
Hearing them call out ‘First Place: University of California , Berkeley’