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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

After a year of work, the UF Eckhoff Steel Bridge Team built its way to the top.

The team won first place in the 2015 National Student Steel Bridge Competition for the first time since 1997.

In order to compete, each team had to design and fabricate a bridge according to a set of rules established by the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Institute of Steel Construction. 

The annual competition took place May 22-23 in Kansas City, Missouri. There were 47 teams from across the United States, Canada and Mexico that participated in the national competition.

While it may seem like a simple task to an outsider, the whole process takes about a year and thousands of hours of hard work. During the Fall the team designed the bridge, and they fabricated it in Spring.

“When we fabricate the bridge we measure everything to the sixty-fourth of an inch,” said Juliana Rochester, the team’s design captain. “Everything is so precise that it just takes an incredible amount of time.”

To qualify for nationals, the team first had to compete in regionals. This year, the top four teams in UF’s region went to nationals. Overall, more than 200 teams participated in the competition at the regional level.

At the competition, the bridges are judged across six categories: construction speed, stiffness, lightness, economy, display and efficiency. On top of being crowned the overall winner, UF’s team also won first place in lightness and efficiency.

The team’s bridge was named after William and Linda Eckhoff, who have been funding UF’s Student Steel Bridge Program since 1999. It will be on display in the Weil Hall Structures Laboratory, otherwise known as “The Pit.”

Christopher Ferraro, the team’s faculty adviser, said he wants students to see the bridge and remember that the national championship is within their reach because they are at UF.

The Eckhoff Steel Bridge Team is one of the competitive teams of UF’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The ASCE Concrete Canoe Team, another one of the society’s teams, also ranked among the top in its region and will be competing in nationals later this month.

Ferraro’s goal is for both teams to rank in the top five every year in their respective competitions.

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“Even though we got first place, that doesn’t mean we are top notch yet,” said Marlo Chumioque, a member and mentor of the steel bridge team. “In these last two years we stepped up, and we’re going to be ranking top five from now on.” 

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