SOCORRO, N.M. June 4, 2009 – The Civil Engineering student members of the American Society of Civil Engineers club participated in their first National Student Steel Bridge Competition on May 22 and 23 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Club sponsor Dr. Claudia Wilson said she is thrilled with the Tech students’ performance in their first trip to the national event.

“It was really exciting,” team member Robert Montoya said. “This was the first time a New Mexico Tech team had a bridge in nationals. We were pretty proud that we made it in our fourth try.”

Photo of New Mexico Tech bridge building teamThe Steel Bridge Building Team is (from left) Joe Sullivan, Dr. Claudia Wilson, Amiri Alexander, Phil Cheasebro, Jay Herrera, Robert Montoya, Katie Milowicki, Phil Heid, Isaac Simmons, and Royce Beaudry. Not present: Brent Meins.

Montoya said the biggest challenge was the construction.

“We got it designed fairly easily,” he said. “It looked great on paper, but we had to figure out what had to come first and how to put it together.”

The bridge building team was a club activity last year, after two years as a senior design clinic project. For the 2008-09 school year, the bridge building team once again was a “capstone project,” as part of the Senior Design Clinic in Civil Engineering. Montoya said the project gave the seniors a chance to apply their education to a project.

The design team is Brent Meins, Phil Heid, Jay Herrera, Robert Montoya and Isaac Simmons. The building team at the regionals was Meins, Heid, Montoya, Simmons, and Amiri Alexander. At nationals, Meins was unable to attend. Jay Herrera, who could not compete in Provo due to a knee injury, rejoined the team. Other participants at nationals were Royce Beaudry, Joe Sullivan and Phil Cheasebro.

“Through this project, I learned how to apply all the classes I’ve taken,” Montoya said. “We also used the RISA modeling program. We designed every aspect of the bridge, right down to designing each weld and bolt hole.”

Tech had qualified for this competition during the ASCE Rocky Mountain Regional Competition in April in Provo, Utah. There, the Tech students placed in third overall. The Tech team placed first in efficiency, second in stiffness and third in lightness.

The team improved its performance at the National Competition by reducing slightly their construction time and decreasing the bridge deflection through the modification of two tension members.

As a result, Tech bested South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, which had placed second at regionals. In Nevada, Tech placed 32nd overall out of the top 280 universities from the 18 regional conferences.

– NMT –