Last year I had the pleasure of being on the Steel Bridge Club (that’s me on the right end of last years group) and continued for this year as well. Now you may be thinking why I would be in a primarily civil engineering club when I’m a mechanical engineering student myself. There are essentially four key groups to the steel bridge team; design, schematics, fabrication, fundraising.
The design team does the actual civil engineering involved. They work on truss designs and work out efficient structures etc. They design the bridge as a series of members in 3-D computer programs that they can then use to artificially test how it handles force. Once they’re satisfied they send all the measurements of the members to the team I’m in charge of, the schematics team.
The schematics team does the computer design which is a valuable skill to have for mechanical engineering. We use Solidworks 3-D design software to build each piece of the bridge. Then we assemble it together in the program. We then print out a bunch of schematic drawings from the program that we then hand off to the next team, the fabrication crew.
Fabrication then takes our drawings and uses them as a reference as they then build our bridge of out steel. They cut and weld all of the steel themselves. Once they’re done we’re ready for the competition if the fundraising team did their job.
It’s up to fundraising to raise enough money for the team to not only buy the steel we need but also collect funds for traveling to and from the competition itself. All in all its a very long process but it all pays off at the competition which is a lot of fun. This year it is being hosted at Penn State’s main campus. I’m excited to run my own crew this year for the schematics team. Our first meeting is tonight and we start by learning the basics in Solidworks. More updates are to come.