UMKC Steel Bridge Team Soars at Nationals

The UMKC Steel Bridge Team received 2nd place in 1 of 6 subcategories and placed 33rd out of 43 teams at the 2017 National Student Steel Bridge Competition! Team members Jon Daldalian and Evan Jones shared more about their experience at the competition.

Congratulations on your victories at Nationals! Tell us more about your experience there.

Jon: Our team tied for 1st place in the stiffness category at this year’s National Student Steel Bridge Competition (NSSBC). We were awarded second place after losing the tiebreaker to Tongji University from Shanghai, China. I don’t have the words to describe what it feels like to place at the national competition. Our team had a running joke throughout the year regarding placing in a national category because it seemed like such a far fetched goal. Ultimately, the attention to detail and quality of the team’s design and fabrication made the difference. This award makes all the sleepless nights and early mornings well worth the sacrifice.

Evan: Nationals was what the entire team had worked tirelessly towards the entire year and being able to participate was an opportunity of a lifetime. The competition pulled 43 teams from a pool of 251 different universities who competed at regional levels. Given such a large filter, to be able to even participate at the national tournament was a huge honor for the team, and to leave with some hardware was an even bigger one.

What have you learned from this experience?

Jon: This experience has taught me to never sell myself or my team short. Although our team wasn’t the largest and our fabrication equipment wasn’t the fanciest, we were able to create a simple well-built bridge that was stiffer than any of the top engineering programs throughout the world. No matter the odds, it only takes hard work and dedication to compete among the best.

Evan: I learned that how you build something is just as important as the design itself. Steel Bridge is unique because it forces our team to not only come up with a design, but to also be able to build it ourselves and then load test it at competition to prove its design. The activity constantly forced me to ask “How can this design be implemented?” “Is a less efficient design better if it can constructed easily?” This type of first hand design (and build) experience is something that is immensely important for young engineers to have.

What does receiving this award mean to you and your team?

Jon: UMKC has such a rich and successful history participating in the Steel Bridge competition. Receiving these awards at the regional and national competitions makes us feel proud to count ourselves among the many great engineers who came before us. More than anything, it felt amazing to listen as the announcers read the University of Missouri – Kansas City aloud for all the competitors to hear. Our hope is that these awards can once again solidify UMKC’s dominance in our future conferences and national appearances.

Evan: Hearing “University of Missouri-Kansas City” announced at nationals was what the team needed to prove that we still can go toe-to-toe with any school in the nation, and we’re excited to prove that again next year.

What do you have planned next year for Steel Bridge?

Jon: For the upcoming 2017-2018 Steel Bridge team, we plan to focus on growing our younger member involvement. Our current team captain, Mario Gutierrez, was a freshman throughout last year’s competition. The returning graduate students plan to teach Mario, and all other underclassmen, everything we can about the process of designing and fabricating a steel bridge within the rules. Once again, our main goal is to make UMKC a strong Steel Bridge contender within the regional and national competitions.

Evan: The primary focus will be growing the team. With key team members returning and underclassman already taking on leadership roles for the next year, we hope to ensure that this past year was not a one-off year, but rather the revival of a nationally competitive team. While the rules do not come out until early August, the team is modeling designs for bridges based off of rules from many different years. Furthermore, using the few extra materials we do have from last year, the team is still practicing its fabrication skills. While we did place in one category, we still have a lot of hard work to do to close the gap in others, and we’re excited for the challenge.

Why do you think it’s important for students to get involved with teams and organizations like Steel Bridge?

Jon: Student organizations allow young engineers to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom. Although faculty advisers provided useful input throughout the year, the bulk of decision making was done by student members. As a young engineer, these experiences are crucial because it necessitates initiative and teamwork among peers. These skills are arguably the most important for career advancement and learning them early can make all the difference.

Evan: It teaches students that engineering does not stop when something is drawn. It is one thing to design something, it is another to be able to design something that is easy to make, economical, and still safe.

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