Civil Engineers’ bridge building competition, “Dropped,” creates a splash


Staff photo/Christopher Castro

The idea of a bridge-building competition is simple: teams will be judged on different aspects of their bridge, such as design and how much weight it can hold. But Rowan’s American Society of Civil Engineer’s “Dropped” competition had a twist.

Most bridges are made of wood, concrete and possibly steel, but not the bridges these teams of five built. All 10 participating teams were instructed to build a bridge made of cardboard for the ASCE’s first ever “Dropped” competition on Friday, Sept. 27.

“The bridge has to be 12-feet long and 1-foot wide,” said Eric Seckinger, the coordinator of the event and a junior civil engineering major. “Teams are given 10 sheets of 3×4 cardboard and a 60-yard roll of duct tape.”

But that wasn’t the only oddity. Competitors had to remember their bathing suits because the competition took place in the Esbjornson Gym pool, where competitors attempted to cross their cardboard bridges as the crowd cheered them on.

“Their bridges will be hanging off the side of the pool onto two ladders in the water,” Seckinger said. “If they fall in, it’ll make a big splash. The first test is to get everyone over one by one.”

There were three judges for the event, all Rowan engineering faculty. They judged on aspects like design and draft, engineering principles, sturdiness and walkability.

Participants of any engineering discipline and class were welcome to compete.

Christine Goins, sophomore civil engineering major, was the team leader of the “Laser Eyed Unicorns.”  She worked with her team to create a design they thought would work best after watching videos of the competition online.

“We researched first and tried to find the best design that was also the easiest to make,” she said.

Teams were given three hours to build their bridges before attempting to cross.

Though it was a close call by the judges, the first place team was “In Cardboard We Trust,” who was awarded a fake cardboard check and free T-shirts.

“We were extremely confident,” said Pat Lynch, a senior civil engineering major and member of the winning team. “Within all the teams we were the only seniors, but we were nervous when we got a look at the teams and our deflection with the 40-pound weight.”

The team’s secret was in their design as a box girder beam.

“It’s a widely used thing in bridges today in elevated highways,” Lynch said.

But even as competitors took spill after spill on their bridges, partakers still exhibited team spirit. All the members of the “Laser Eyed Unicorns” jumped in  the pool with their team member, sophomore mechanical engineering major Kate Everett, after her attempted bridge walking and ultimate splash.

“If we had a little more time and a little more duct tape we could’ve done it,” Goins said.  “We had a lot [of cardboard] left over, which was surprising.”

Though the team members changed their design during building, they didn’t regret their decision after coming in third place.

“The design change improved it even though we lost points for that,” Everett said. “We figured out something better.”

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