The design process, as well as the final design are significant components for success in the competition. The process demands testing various models and takes months to perfect; it begins when the official competition rules are released, and the team meets to discuss and brainstorm ideas based on the given build scenario and dimensional constraints. Using computer programs such as AutoCAD and Visual Analysis, bridge models are designed and analyzed for performance. Based on these trials the stronger models can be identified and then further optimized. From these select few models, a final design is chosen that best meets team goals for performance and efficiency.
After the design phase, team members begin the fabrication process. This hands-on experience teaches student many skills that range from reading and following designs, milling steel, welding, cutting steel, and other lab skills. Many students feel this phase is the most rewarding aspect of Steel Bridge because they are able to see their design concept being built right in front of their eyes. Students also feel a sense of camaraderie as they work as a team for several months trying to accomplish the same goal.
Once the bridge is completely fabricated, and after the first load test, assembly practice begins. The assembly team is generally chosen from the members of the team who dedicate the most fabrication hours. In order to be chosen as an assembly team member, you must be quick on your feet, possess good hand-eye coordination, and have a great level of dedication.
Practices usually run for a couple of hours, three to four nights a week until competition, the ASCE regional conference. The first few runs are generally slow as everyone is gradually learning their roles and tasks. Times are recorded after each completed practice run, so the team can track their improvements. Once competition time has rolled around, the assembly team has their routine mastered down to every detail.
Following countless hours designing, manufacturing, and assembling the steel bridge, speed and skill are put to the test. The team travels to one of the Southeastern universities where members compete with over 20 other universities, all with the same goal, to represent their university at Nationals. On the first day of the competition, each university displays their bridge while being judged on it's aesthetics and verifying that the bridge meets the visual requirements. On the second day, each team assembles and loads their bridge. Bridges are scored on construction time, lightness, stiffness, economy, efficiency, and aesthetics. In the evening, a banquet is held and awards are given to the top 3 schools in each category. The overall awards take into consideration each of the different categories and the top 2 or 3 universities have the opportunity represent the Southeast region at the national Steel Bridge Competition.
UF competes in numerous competitions that encompass the various aspects of civil engineering. Each of these competitions weigh into crowning the overall winner of the ASCE Student Conference.