Steel Bridge Competition 2015

build team

Last weekend the Lehigh Steel Bridge team and I attended the 2015 Steel Bridge competition hosted at Penn State University Park. The team was comprised of the build team (pictured above and the executive board (pictured below.) This year Lehigh competed against U of Maryland, U of Delaware, Johns Hopkins, Temple, Villanova, Lafayette, Pitt Johnstown, Bucknell, Morgan State, and Penn State Main.

exec board

The competition is a two-day event. The first day holds the visual aesthetics judgement and also a presentation on a paper prepared by the team along with some meetings thrown in the mix as well. The first day is pretty leisurely. We show up to the judgement spot and take our time putting our bridge together. Once that is done we usually see the other bridges and take notes on design aspects we might like to incorporate for next years bridge. Once that is done usually the paper presentations occur. This year I think the paper was on ethics in engineering and how it can affect the industry.  After the presentations there are a bunch of meetings that the captains attend about the rules and regulations for the competition the next day. Then after that we packed everything up and headed back to our hotel with the rest of the night off. However, we finished building our bridge only the day before we left for competition so we did not have much time to practice building it. So that night we practiced building our bridge at our hotel and then went to bed.

The next day was the day of the actual competition. We woke up early and had to drive to the grounds we it was held, about 20-30 minutes from main campus at the Civil Engineering lodge. By the time we got there the first two teams were already building their bridges. Basically the way it works is your team is given a specific time slot to build the bridge. The rules are that the bridge must be built within 30 minutes or else you incur a huge time penalty. After 45 minutes you are disqualified but still allowed to finish building and you can still load test. After the building is finished you move the bridge to be load tested. First is the lateral load which is 75 lbs across the bridge. If the bridge deflects below a certain threshold then it moves onto to be vertically tested. In the vertical load test over 2000 lbs is applied to the bridge via 25 lb plates the bridge team members apply themselves. If it passes that test they factor all of your scores/penalties together and give you a final  score. The top three teams then advance to the next round. Below are pictures of the lateral and vertical test.



Now for the results. This year was much better than last year. We ended up being disqualified because we took too long building our bridge. However once it was constructed we were able to load test it. It passed the lateral test easily (this is what disqualified us last year.) Then in the vertical load test it supported 1750 lbs! Compared to last year it was a much better performance, though far from perfect. I think our biggest problem was our connection design. The connections are the most crucial part of the bridge. This year we used simple vertical plates and bolted them together in a few places. This lead to a very large number of bolts compared to other teams. This in turn leads to longer build times. Also, one thing nobody thought of was that the 1/8″ plates would bend during construction. The more we practiced building the more bent the plates got which in turn made building it more difficult. This year we noticed that a lot of teams got their connections professionally fabricated, something we had the budget for this year but decided against. Next year I will be focusing on connection design to avoid a repeat from this year. We need connections that not only facilitate the build process but are also more effective in handling stress. All-in-all though it was a great improvement over last year and a fun trip too. I’m excited for next years competition already! Below are pictures of the crew building the bridge and also the results of the load testing.

3 heads


aaron1750 pounds



Mech 12 Bridge Project

This past Monday we received our newest Mech 12 project. This time around we are put into random groups of three and are tasked with building three separate bridges with different characteristics using Autodesk Simulation: Mechanical. The first bridge must use a truss system entirely under the horizontal plane, the “road.” The second must use a truss system that is entirely above the “road.” And the third uses a combination of the two. Each bridge is subjected to two loading conditions; a distributed load due to weight of materials across the entire length of the bridge, and three concentrated loads of equal magnitude spaced symmetrically across the bridge. There are a bunch of size requirements and limitations we are given so each bridge submitted is comparable to one another. Whats really cool is that the team that produces the best bridges i.e. the bridges that deflect the least will receive an extra 2 bonus points on the final exam, which is out of 80 points. I’m hopeful that my experience on the Steel Bridge team will help when designing our bridges. Speaking of which the MAR competition happened last weekend so look for post on that shortly!

SAE Presentation

This past week, our formula team went up to Lafayette College to present our plan for our car including our goals, new materials we were using, new methods we were doing, and how these implications would better our car.

FSAE presentation1

The presentation wasn’t just for formula cars, but also for other types of cars and planes as well.  Penn State, for example, had two teams presenting a plane that they want to build for next year and the other team showed their Baja car that they have been working on.

FSAE presentation3

This is Zach, the lead designer for our car’s brakes.  He talked about how he was able to make more efficient brakes using a design method a little bit more different so that there could be no warping on the brakes.  He also talked about the factor of safety and the new features that the brakes could perform.

Presentation night was new to me so it was pretty interesting to see how each team’s idea for building their car or plane.  Our revealing of the car is this Friday and although we are not completely done with the car, we have been on track with most things and will be ready by competition.

CNC of Rear Uprights


This past weekend, a few of us on the Formula Team went to create the rear uprights for the car at Packard.  This piece of aluminum here was to be cut into the desired shape that we wanted using what is called CNC (computer numerical control) with a Haas Vertical Machine.  Basically, one writes a program using G-code and/or CAM (computer aided manufacturing) telling the Haas Machine what cuts to do and the machine does it for you.

Here’s the machine we used:

IMG_0895If you want to see how it works, click the link!

And here’s our two rear uprights that we created:

IMG_0899Pretty cool, huh?  These parts took a while to machine since we had most of the program on the mill set to G01 which means linear interpolation and not G00, which is rapid movement.  I’m starting to learn a little more about G-coding and its use and I’ve gotten to learn quite a bit.  I get amazed with how much some of the Formula team members know about cars and I will continue to learn from them.

How a Mechanical Watch Works

Over Spring break I was rummaging through some old drawers in my room where I found an old pocket watch my grandfather gave me a few years ago. I wound it up and it began ticking. Curious, I opened the back to see what I could find. I recorded the video above in slow motion to see how it worked. Well I couldn’t get a good grasp on it and I didn’t have the tools to take it apart so I searched YouTube for answers. The video below provides a great explanation that’s pretty easy to comprehend, even if it is from 1949. As a fun exercise, watch the video below and then watch the video I made above and see if you can spot all of the major components that make the watch function. Since I watched these videos I’ve gained a huge appreciation for these tiny mechanical marvels.