Dr. Z’s Corner

Dr. Z

Ahmet Zeytinci, P.E., Ph.D., Fellow-NSPE, Fellow-ASCE is an award-winning professor, structural engineer, author and mentor living in Washington, D.C. Since joining academia, "Dr. Z", as he is known by his students and colleagues, has distinguished himself on campus and beyond. He is passionate about engineering, gifted in teaching, and is a true champion for professional licensure. Dr. Z. has extraordinarily high standards; has produced award-winning designs; is prolific in professional service; and infects others with these same values. He is the recipient of numerous local, regional and national awards, including recent national awards from the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) and American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Since 2014, he has been regularly writing monthly articles for “Dr.Z’s Corner “ and offering hundreds of engineering problems, for free, every month for students, engineers and engineering educators worldwide. Dr. Z. also offers pro-bono Saturday classes for students and engineers; his free classes are open to all in the greater Washington metro area and cost nothing, nada, zilch! Starbucks coffee is always a must have for Dr. Z.

ASCE Steel Bridge Competition 2018


It’s always fun to have an event to look forward to, but it can be hard to stay patient when you have to wait for something you’re excited about. The more you focus on the event, the more you want it to happen right away.

On March 23, 2018 the regional steel bridge competition for the Virginias, which includes the District of Columbia, was held at Catholic University in Washington, DC.

The AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition is an annual competition where student groups from all over the globe design and construct a bridge within strict guidelines. Winners and first runners-up from most conferences are invited to compete at the national level. However, invitations are extended only to the winner from a conference with two, three or four participating universities, and to the top three teams from a conference with eleven or more participating universities. A university may enter more than one bridge in conference competition but only the best one may qualify for national competition.

At the national level, AISC assists with travel funds for teams from North American schools invited to compete. Each qualifying team from each conference from North American schools receives $500 from AISC.

I asked my young colleague Dr. Bryan Higgs from UDC, who is also the ASCE Faculty advisor and coach of TeamUDC, give us the full report about this exciting event and here is what Bryan sent wrote:

The AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition begins at the regional level and only the best bridges from a region qualify for the national competition. Each bridge must be 17 feet long and be constructed from steel members that are a maximum of 3 feet long, 4 inches wide, and 6 inches deep.

Scoring: Scoring of the bridges is based on minimizing the total cost across four main categories: (1) timed build, (2) weight, (3) lateral load test, and (4) vertical load test.

Timing: The timed build consists of a build team carrying each member of the bridge, one by one, from a staging area across a transportation zone to the construction site. There, the members of the bridge are bolted together forming the bridge.

Major Challenge: The major difficulty is that there is a river in the middle of the construction zone which means that the bridge must be built from both sides of the river at the same time. The overall weight of the bridge is factored into the score as a cost per pound, so it is very beneficial to keep the bridge very light.

The lateral load test: The lateral load test places a 50-pound lateral load to the middle of the bridge and if the sway exceeds one inch, the bridge fails. The vertical load test is the most menacing where 2500 pounds of weight is loaded onto the bridge and if the deflection exceeds 3 inches, the bridge fails. Given all the scoring categories, a good bridge must be fast, light, and strong.

Competing Teams: The competition consisted of Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, West Virginia University, George Mason University, George Washington University, Virginia Military Institute, West Virginia Tech, Bluefield State College, Howard University, Catholic University, and Marshall.

The bridges produced by the students of each of these universities covered a wide array of different designs each with a unique identity. The fastest build time of the competition belonged to the first-place holder, Bluefield State College, at a mere 17 minutes and 34 seconds. UDC Firebirds weren’t far behind with a build time of 18 minutes and 3 seconds.

The vertical load test: The vertical load test was the most feared test as it eliminated most of the competing teams. UDC bridge stood strong and held all 2500 pounds with only a 0.97” deflection.

The UDC bridge received second place at the competition thus earning UDC the right to compete at the national level at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Catholic University was the third and George Mason received the fourth place.

Here, it is important to remember these three key words: being fast, keeping it light, and making it strong.

We were proud to be representing the UDC Firebirds in this momentous occasion and are looking to not only survive the competition but thrive.

UDC’s bridge team feels the hopes and support of all UDC students, faculty, staff, and alumni behind them propelling them to greatness.

But we have to give credit to all the schools from the Washington, D.C. metro area for their participation and hard work and wish them good luck for future competitions!

Again, the National Competitions will be held at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne on May 25th and 26th. Until then, challenge yourself with this month’s practice problems here.

Until next time,

Ahmet Zeytinci (Dr. Z.)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Relevant Articles