Steel Bridge

 If you walk down the corridors of Duckering building, home of the UAF Engineering Program, you will see numerous pictures, plaques, and trophies belonging to the Steel Bridge Team.  As a high school student taking my first tour, this fired my interest.  “You mean we can build things as an undergraduate?”  I thought.  It was actually one of the reasons I decided to come to UAF.

We are not the only school to compete in competitions, but I’d like to think we do things a little differently.  Our teams are small- generally perhaps a dozen people who put a lot of time into the program, and a half dozen who provide peripheral assistance.  Professors Halsey and Wilhelm offer awesome faculty support, but it is undoubtedly a student project.  We compete against teams that could have forty members, or more.  Unlike many schools, we don’t just design, we do our own work in a small machine shop in the basement of Duckering.  This means that, if you sign up, the team will teach you to weld, or use a milling machine, and any other of half a dozen skills that are essential to the project.  This offers valuable hands on experience that many schools lack. 

The experience of being a part of the team is a real rush.  You can find us in Duckering in the spring semester, starting with once a week, and eventually gearing up to the point we are there almost daily, including over Spring Break.  The basement really becomes our space.  Team members meet there for studying as well as bridge tasks, and Spring Break often finds us pulling open our door to do some barbequing and team bonding.  The team members learn skills, and utilize lessons in design from class.  The project demands a lot of time- you should expect it to take more than thirty hours just to learn to do one of the tasks well enough to be allowed to start working on the steel bridge.  By the time of the competition, we may be exhausted, but there’s definitely the element of satisfaction as well.  We tend to do well in competitions as well, so if you stick with it the entire way, you’ll probably have a pretty awesome line item on a resume, or story to tell in an interview. 
Not an engineer, but still interested?  Business or advertising majors, or other interested parties, can join the team and help with the (substantial) fundraising efforts (steel is expensive).  You can even learn to weld, if you’re interested and stick with it.  Freshmen are welcome on the team.  Upperclassmen tend to be more involved in the design efforts, but you will still get an introduction to the software used, and learn the skills needed to be a leader on the team by the time you are an upperclassman.

For more information, check out the steel bridge website.

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