Engineering majors bring home friends, duct tape

By By L.M. Sander

By L.M. Sander

L.M. Sander

Staff Writer

Engineering students from 11 universities traveled to Colorado State University in Fort Collins this past weekend to the annual American Society of Civil Engineers Student Conference.

The U teams spent hundreds of hours preparing for the Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe competitions and together they made connections between two dimensional theories and reality, and also with each other.

The first competition of the weekend was the Steel Bridge Competition, where student designed and built bridges are judged in the areas of aesthetics, structural efficiency, stiffness and construction speed.

Although most people don’t normally associate engineers with circuit training, these competitions are probably some of the few times physicality helps an engineer.

Each team must assemble its bridge in up to six-person teams, being careful not to break a tenet that is outlined in the 30-page rule book.

While the U team nervously awaited its turn, a large clang rocked the auditorium and vibrated through the metal ceiling.

Oscar Moreno, co-zcaptain of the U’s Steel Bridge Team, shot to his feet and leaned in the direction of the sound. His cheeks expanded with excitement.

The Colorado State bridge collapsed. Members of the team lifted 50-pound steel angles over their heads in a resilient, but defeated, manner.

These angles were loaded on top of the bridge to test for stiffness, and in this case the weight was too much for the CSU bridge and it was disqualified.

“They were the only team I worried the most about,” said Moreno.

Shortly after, the U team prepared to be timed for assembly.

“Any last words?” Jeremy Spangler was asked.

“No, none,” he replied, searching in the Home Depot apron cinched to his waist bulging with metal fasteners.

Two judges carrying a long, square wooden box, a magnet and tape measure moved to the U’s bridge pieces and tested each one in accordance to the regulations.

The duo grabbed a coiled cable and stretched it out in line with the tape measure.

“Twenty-two feet, exactly,” said one judge. “Just kidding,” he added.

Considering the cables can only be 20 feet long, Moreno doubled over and smiled, giving a sigh and an audible, “Wooo.”

A judge bellowed, “one, two, three,” and the U team was off and running, literally.

Four minutes and 39 seconds later, the 26-foot-long, 5-foot high bridge was assembled and the judges began to swarm, packing a tape measure and an supreme eye for the inch.

The U’s bridge measured at one-16th of an inch too long and about that much too high, adding a 200-pound penalty to the light 157-pound frame.

Their only hope was the stiffness test.

Jesse Barton and Wayne Crowther began to transfer 2,500 pounds on to the deck of the bridge, 50 pounds at a time.

The collapse that only a short time earlier the U team celebrated had now befallen them.

At 2,450 pounds, with only one angle to go, the bolt in one connection pulled through, making the decking support come crashing.

“It was very euphoric, but then I was disappointed,” said Crowther.

Though the U bridge collapsed, it went down in style. The bridge, coated with silver and red paint using cables threaded on each side through two 5-foot towers, could easily be considered a work of art.

Brigham Young University also brought a bridge for competition, but due to a miscalculation, their bridge was disqualified. It was exactly 1 foot too long.

The second day brought the U more frustration with the Concrete Canoe Competition.

The canoes are also judged aesthetically, but the physicality comes into play again in this competition since the canoes are put to use in traditional fashion.

The U canoe team braved temperatures around 40 degrees to paddle their canoe across Fort Collins’ City Lake.

An overall best time is found by combining the times of the men’s double, women’s double, co-ed quad and co-ed endurance races.

The U’s canoe was more bulky than many of the other canoes, but the U paddlers made up for it in spirit.

Take Bethany Tate and Shannon Reynolds, for example, who fought their way across the finish line underwater capturing the only prize the U was to receive: The Submarine Award, which was nothing more than a roll of duct tape.

The U canoe lasted the competition in one piece, which is more than many schools could say.

The University of Colorado’s canoe broke into three pieces before the races began.

“We put a lot of work into it, but the canoe couldn’t handle the ride up here,” says Stephanie Ruybal, CU canoe team member.

BYU didn’t have much better luck when its canoe broke in half, leaving four paddlers stranded, bobbing in frustration.

New Mexico State University took home the overall trophy and many of the individual awards, but for the U students involved, these competitions were about a lot more than trophies.

“This is a commuter school,” said Ed Clarke. “It’s a time when I get to actually meet the people I sit next to in lecture-the same people I haven’t met over the four years I’ve been here.”

“It’s a time to get to know other people,” added Spangler.

Along with this, the engineering students get a chance to apply the concepts they would otherwise only know on paper.

“The equations may all make sense to you in your mind, but you don’t truly understand the concepts until you can apply them directly,” says Moreno.

“It is definitely a different kind of learning experience because learning in textbooks is much different than doing it in real life. We learn about yield on net, but here, we actually saw it happen,” said Michael Kessler, who will use all he has seen to guide him as the captain of next year’s steel bridge team.

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