Steel bridge team places in regional conference

John LaCerda

After two semesters of designing and fabricating a 21-foot-long bridge, Villanova’s Steel Bridge Team competed in the American Society of Civil Engineers Mid-Atlantic Conference two weekends ago and placed first for aesthetics and for the technical paper presentation and second in stiffness.

Led by senior Steven Zacharski, team president, the squad of six engineers traveled to Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., to contend with nine other schools from the region.

While the teams were given their objectives over the past summer, they could only design and fabricate the bridge during the academic year. Upon arrival at the contest, each team received one hour to finish a bridge that had to support 2,500 pounds of weight over a fictional 12-foot-wide river.

“We had an hour to complete construction on the bridge before getting disqualified,” Zacharski said. “Since we were disqualified last year, it was important to build it faster because we would receive more points from the judges.”

The judges from the ASCE score the bridges on a variety of aspects, including speed of construction, stiffness of boards, ascetics and overall appeal.

With four of the six team members being seniors and a fifth member being a junior, the engineers had significant experience going into the competition.

“We’re mostly civil engineers, and we’re directly applying what we learn in class,” said Colin Doyle, vice president of the team. “It was extremely useful to have a solid background in the design and structure of a simple bridge. We put together the most competitive team we could.”

Doyle, a junior civil engineer major, will lead the Steel Bridge Team next year and says he hopes that involvement in the program will increase in the upcoming months.

“I would definitely recommend any Villanova engineering student to become involved with the Steel Bridge Team because it looks great on a resumé to have completed such an intense and challenging task,” Zacharski said.

Although the team will be losing its graduating seniors next year, Zacharski feels confident that its recent success, coupled with the growing number of engineering students on campus, will boost membership.

In addition to needing more members, the team also requires funding for the design and display of the bridge.

While the team receives funding from the Engineering Alumni Society, the costs of purchasing steel and tools for construction can become burdensome.

The ASCE, a professional organization representing more than 123,000 civil engineers, formed over 150 years ago with the purpose of advancing professional knowledge and improving the practice of civil engineering.

Today, it focuses on infrastructure renewal and development, policy leadership and more importantly, student progression into the engineering world.

Zacharski already received a job offer for next year, but he said he might end up applying to graduate school.

He agrees that some of the top engineering and science companies in the country admire student involvement with a competition like that of ASCE.

Doyle was struck by the opportunities that the steel bridge competition would provide him not only as an undergraduate but as an employee out of college.

“I’ve grown up working with my hands and have held various jobs dealing with both high-end construction projects and minor developments,” Doyle said. “I loved working with a design team and construction plan during the year.”

Faculty adviser Dr. Joseph Yost provided insight and advice during the duration of the project.

Yost teaches civil and environmental engineering and has extensive experience in design and structural rehabilitation of bridges and transportation infrastructure.