Steel Bridge has been a part of Lafayette Civil Engineering since 2003.

While the specific rules for the competition change each year in order to ensure thoughtful and original student design work, the overall premise of the competition remains the same, year to year:  to construct a steel bridge out of size-limited parts for a span of about 20-ft and an applied loading of 2500-lbs, optimizing the bridge to yield the best combination of stiffness, lightness, and construction speed.  The team’s score is determined by a cost equation, where the goal is to minimize cost.  The cost equation applies different weights to each of the following measured parameters:
* Stiffness.  This is generally the summation of vertical deflection measurements at locations along the bridge, while the bridge is subjected to the 2500-lb load.
* Lightness.  This is the weight of the bridge, itself.
* Construction Speed.  This is the integral of time and the number of builders that the team needed to construct its bridge on competition day on a race course that typically includes a river that cannot be crossed.

Changes in rules from year to year necessarily lead to innovation, as the winning ideas from one year become non-competitive in another year.  Structural styles, construction techniques, and overall strategy must be developed through exhaustive analytical study of the rules of the current year.

The Students Steel Bridge Competition (SSBC) is generously sponsored by the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC).  The competition began in 1987, becoming a national competition in 1992.

The Lafayette Steel Bridge Team is generously sponsored by The Harman Group, the Lafayette Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, the Lafayette Engineering Division, and the support of many steel bridge alumni.

Since entering its first regional competition in 2004, Lafayette has:
* Qualified for Nationals – 14 times
* Won the Mid-Atlantic Regional – 12 times
* Top Ten at Nationals – 9 times
* National Champions – 2019, 2018

2021 – National Championship Results – to be announced June 3rd, 2021

(AISC Virtual National Finals, 5pm Eastern Time, June 3rd, 2021)
2021 Team Photo

2020 – A Great Team but… Competition canceled, due to the pandemic

2020 Lafayette Steel Bridge - Team Photo


2019 – National Champions

2019 An asymmetric tied-arch concept. Video

2018 – National Champions

2018A tied-arch concept that used innovative tools for a 3 minute, 15 second build-time, Video

2017 – 2nd Place, Nationals

2017A double-girder concept

2016 Team – Fourth Place, Nationals

A canted truss concept

2015 Team – Fifth Place, Nationals

Innovative tools enabled a 3-person build-team

CE 411 Advanced Design: Steel Bridge (Fall) – Video
This is an intense discussion-based engineering course.  Students are expected to conduct independent FEM-based parametric and case studies, devoting classtime to the presentation and discussion of results.  In this one-semester course, students perform much of the critical analytical studies that lead to the final steel bridge design.  Students develop expert-level knowledge of finite element modeling, while also improving skills with AutoCAD detailing, Revit modeling, and the use of Inventor.  They also detail and fabricate a fall semester bridge that is tested and analyzed.  Prerequisites:  CE 311 and instructor permission.

CE 394 Independent Study:  Steel Bridge (Spring)
From the analytical and physical experience of the fall semester, students complete the design, detailing, and fabrication of the spring semester (Final) bridge.  Oftentimes, the fall semester results lead to an entirely new design direction, while in other cases only minor changes are necessary.  Efficient project management is essential.  Depending on the rules for the particular year, substantial effort may go towards the development of innovative tools or construction methods.  CE 311 and instructor permission.

CE 311 Structural Analysis and Steel Design (Fall)
Though only a small number of Lafayette students compete in the AISC Students Steel Bridge Competition, all Lafayette Civil Engineering students compete in the Annual CE 311 Steel Bridge Competition, an intramural competition in this required CE class, each December since 2003.

Steel Bridge is high quality engineering education.  From parametric and case studies with Finite Element Modeling…

To energetic design discussions that combine physical models with computer applications and rational arguments…

To 3D modeling

To drafting, detailing, and the development of cut sheets

To fabrication: cutting, drilling, fixturing, welding, heat-treating…


To Load-Testing

To Timed Construction

*Modern Steel Construction – August 2019
* Steel Bridge Team Receives Support From The Harman Group
* CE 311 Steel Bridge Competition – 2018
* Modern Steel Construction – August, 2018
* A Win for the Ages – 2018
* AISC Press Release – Lafayette wins NSSBC – 2018
* ASCE Press Release – Lafayette wins – 2018
* Bentley Press Release – 2018
* Gunning for the Championship – 2018
* Bentley Press Release – 2017
* Advanced Design Steel Bridge (Video) – 2013