Students at UT Tyler’s Houston Engineering Center qualify for national steel bridge competition

Students at UT Tyler’s Houston Engineering Center qualify for national steel bridge competition

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Engineering students at the UT Tyler’s Houston Engineering Center have qualified to compete at the national steel bridge competition.

The team at UT Tyler’s satellite campus in Houston earned seven top honors at the American Institute of Steel Construction Regional Steel Bridge Competition.

“We basically have qualifiers in the state of Texas and then we go an compete in the national arena," said HEC Director Andres Garcia.

The team oversaw the design and fabrication of a 20- foot-long bridge to support up to 2,500 pounds. With its 2020 entry “Beta,” the UT Tyler HEC team placed second and qualified for the national contest, which has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During the manufacturing process, we could see that some of the original ideas were not as good. We had enough time to revisit some of the design, some of the connections because besides the structural part, there is also a time constraint on the assembly process,” Garcia said. “In order to facilitate the assembly process, the team did some modifications on the overall design to facilitate and improve the assembly time.”

It took the team about 14 minutes to fully assemble the bridge. The team placed first in aesthetics and second in all other categories – construction speed, lightness, stiffness, construction economy and structural efficiency.

“The accomplishment is great, especially when we are competing against the universities of higher profile in the state of Texas. Achieving second place is very good," Garcia said. "We’re coming from behind, but our goal is to win this competition. Second place is good but we consider that the first of the last and we want to win.”

Garcia tells us the AISC has hosted the steel bridge competition for about 50 years. Each bridge built during the competition has to follow certain guidelines and requirements. They’re then tested on several criteria.

“One will be the aesthetics of the bridge. One will be the capacity of the bridge. The other one will be the integrity of the bridge, which basically defines how much, with a certain load, how much deflection that bridge will carry,” he said.

In engineering, deflection refers to the degree to which a structure is displaced under a load.

“The one that carries the least deflection pretty much wins,” Garcia said. "We had first place in aesthetics. Due to the fact that we finished second we were basically tentatively qualified depending on the rest of the country we might qualify for the finals as well as a best second place. We are waiting for that. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some of those competitions were canceled or postponed."

Now, Garcia and his team are waiting for those results and the final schedule for competition.

The team is made up of mechanical and civil engineering students as well as one student from the Construction Management Program. Those team members are:

  • Taylor Knight of Kingwood, Team Captain
  • Andrew Gonzales of Houston, Team Captain
  • Sean Hyslop of Cypress, Fabrication Captain
  • Dominick Laurito of Omaha, Nebraska, Build Captain
  • Esmeralda Martinez of Houston
  • Hector Rubio of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico
  • Austin Pham of Houston
  • Erick Alamo of Lufkin
  • Danny Varghese of Houston
  • Robert Truong of New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Chris Garcia of Houston

UT Tyler is a candidate to host the 2021 regional competition. The AISC committee will meet with officials in Houston to review the competition logistics and location requirements to verify the feasibility of having the competition at UT Tyler Tyler, according to Garcia.

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