The ability to work under harsh time constraints, build following strict requirements and still be able to maximize efficiency are the qualities of a true engineer, said Dr. Stephan Nix, dean of the College of Engineering.
And on Jan. 18, 12 civil engineer majors from Texas A&M University-Kingsville showed 15 other universities that they had the skill to compete under pressure.
At the 2014 AISC/ASCE Steel Bridge Design Competition in UT-Arlington, these engineers had to construct a bridge in under 45 minutes, while taking into consideration the specifications required and the categories the judges used to rank the bridges, said Victor Murillo, junior and vice president of the TAMUK American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) student chapter.
“We wanted to try and represent – show other schools – what this university has to offer. We always end up above other division one schools in some categories,” Murillo said.
But in order to place, the bridge design needed to be one that could strike a nice balance between the six categories: construction speed, weight of the bridge, display, efficiency, economy and overall design. This was a challenge for the group’s designer, Pablo Castro, he said.
“When I was drawing [the design] up on AutoCAD, I had to keep in mind how hard it would be to construct,” Castro said. “There’s so much you have to consider, but that’s reflective of building an actual bridge. You can’t just build a strong bridge or a fast bridge. It has to be strong and fast, it has to fit certain criteria.”
The group’s bridge placed first in construction speed, second in deflection, third in efficiency and fourth overall. The team was able to develop their bridge in 11 minutes and 36 seconds. There was a gap of three minutes between them and second place, Murillo said.
Despite being only one place away from nationals, Castro said the experience was well worth it and he felt that it would better prepare him for the professional world.
“Here (at the university), you’re only exposed to a certain way of doing things, a certain design. At the competition, we got to see 16 bridges and 16 different designs. Most of them were unique and none of them really looked alike. In the future, it opens our eyes to different options, different ideas, different ways of doing things,” Castro said.
Outside of the competition, one of the biggest challenges was project management, said Mario Villarreal, senior and president of the TAMUK ASCE student chapter. It was difficult to get everyone together to practice, especially during the winter break when people wanted to be with their families.
“Some of us had to take time away from school or work or from our families to be here and work on this. Monetarily, it wasn’t a big deal. But the number of hours that we
spent on this…that was the major cost,” Castro said.
The chapter already has some idea of what they can do to improve their design for next time, said Villarreal.
“The design requirements don’t come out until next year, but we can start looking at what kind of materials we can buy to make the bridge lighter and seeking sponsors,” Villarreal said.
But the engineers that’ll be staying another year will have experience and new design ideas to work with, now that they’ve seen other schools in action, Murillo said.
Nix said he was proud of the chapter’s accomplishments, and it showed just how far the college and its students have come along.
“It’s a reflection of the college and our students. It’s a
reflection of our civil engineering program, which is very good,” Nix said. “But most importantly, it’s a reflection of their hard work and dedication, the countless hours they put into their practices and design.”