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Engineering Students Place First, Move to U.S. Finals in Bridge-Building Competition

(March 22, 2010 - Thunder Bay, ON)  Lakehead University Civil Engineering students took first place overall at the 23rd Annual ASCE/AISC Mid-West Student Conference and Regional Student Steel Bridge Competition, hosted by South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota, March 19-20.  As first place winners, the team qualifies for the U.S. National Finals for the eleventh time in 13 years.

The competition challenges students to design a bridge made of steel, and to fabricate a 21-foot-long scale model of the proposed bridge that satisfies the 40-page specification provided to all teams. The specification states that the bridge is required for access to a new oil field located in the Arctic tundra and must span a river and adjacent floodway. The models are erected under simulated field conditions, and are then load-tested by the students at the host university. The specification for the bridge changes from year to year; the rules mirror what it would be like to build a full-sized version of the bridge, taking into account the materials cost (weight), labour cost (construction time), traffic load (simulated test load), and performance (measured deflection under load).  Not only does the event test the students' structural design capabilities, it also challenges them to fabricate and construct their design. 

The steel bridge team ranked well in all of the categories of the competition with the bridge taking 1st for construction speed, 2nd for construction economy, 2nd for lightness, 1st for stiffness,  1st for structural efficiency, and 4th for aesthetics - placing 1st  overall.

"Our team faced strong competition from eight other teams from North and South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, and especially from the North Dakota State University team," says Dr. Timo Tikka, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering at Lakehead University, who is one of the faculty advisors for the Lakehead team. "This is an excellent standing, and a well earned achievement for the many hours that the students devoted to their project. We are very proud of their efforts."

The conference also included a student paper competition, in which students were asked to submit a 2000-word technical paper and to present the paper at the conference. Kristin Myles, a third-year Civil Engineering student at Lakehead, took 2nd place among the nine participating universities with her paper Ethics and the Civil Engineer of 2025: A Case Study of Urban Slums.  The Lakehead team was also recognized with the "Person-Mileage" participation trophy, awarded to the university with the greatest total of registered students, multiplied by distance traveled to the competition.

Tikka explains, "There will be about 45 teams at the National Competition, which will be held at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, on May 28-29.  Teams from Lakehead University have an excellent record at the national level, placing 2nd in 2002, 5th in 2003 and 2006, 4th in 2007, and 3rd in 2009.  The students are really looking forward to the upcoming National Competition."

Support Needed

The students appreciate the support from local companies, unions and associations to assist in meeting the costs to participate in the recent competition. The team would welcome additional sponsors for their upcoming competition in Indiana in May.  Anyone interested may contact one of the team's faculty advisors Tony Gillies or Timo Tikka at 343-8684.

Media: Dr. Tony Gillies at (807) 343-8755 and Dr. Timo Tikka at (807) 343-8560 are available for media interviews. Interviews may also be set up with the students by contacting the Department of Civil Engineering at 343-8684. Photos are available.

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 7,700 students and 2,250 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit

Last updated March 26, 2010

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