Lafayette’s steel bridge team not only successfully defended its 2018 title—it dominated the Student Steel Bridge Competition National Finals in the 2019 competition.

After 10 years of inching ever closer to a national title, Lafayette’s steel bridge team beat 44 others to claim first place in the 2018 National Student Steel Bridge Competition. In its second year as the national champion, the team competed against 40 teams from the country’s top engineering programs. Lafayette’s team qualified for the national competition by winning the Mid-Atlantic Steel Bridge Regional Competition in April. The regional victory marked the 13th time Lafayette has qualified for the national competition since 2005.

“Back-to-back national championships is certainly great,” says Steve Kurtz, team adviser and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. “But the best part—for me, at least—is seeing education in action. As a team, our perspective is that this project teaches the art/science of engineering decision-making; every decision must be an engineered decision, backed by data, analysis, and argument. This process led to design choices that were quite unlike any other design. This team never stopped questioning, arguing, and analyzing—and it showed.”

Teams are judged on how they perform in six different categories. In the 2019 competition, Lafayette took first place in four of the six: construction speed, stiffness, construction economy, and structural efficiency. Which made the victory a mathematical certainty, Kurtz says.

Preparations are underway for the 2020 competition to be held in May. This year’s team, consisting of four men and four women, is working and practicing to continue its streak and uphold the national title for a third year in a row.