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WVU teams finish first, second at regional civil engineering competitions

A photo of the 2019 Steel Bridge team.

WVU's entry in the Steel Bridge Competition finished first and will head to nationals in June.

For the third time in four years, teams from West Virginia University finished at or near the top in the Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe competitions at the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Virginias Conference and the American Institute of Steel Construction Competition held recently at George Mason University, in Fairfax, Virginia.


The events bring together 13 schools from West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C., to allow students to gain valuable hands-on experience by competing in various engineering related competitions. WVU captured top honors in the Steel Bridge competition, while finishing second in the Concrete Canoe event.

Comprised of eight civil engineering majors – Daniel Boyles (Morgantown), Alyssa Braddee (Uniontown, Pennsylvania), Connor Croghan (Burke, Virginia), John Dickson (Salisbury, Maryland), Rachel Formica (Montville, Ohio), Jacob Hise (Dunmore), Adam Roh (Morgantown) and Titus Smith (Bridgeport) – the Steel Bridge team spent most of the fall semester designing the bridge and preparing for fabrication.

“I designed the two sides of the bridge, combining and adjusting features from our past two bridges that I wanted to use,” said Boyles, who served as a team lead. “This year’s bridge used the same connections as the one from 2017, just scaled down to fit smaller steel pipe. After completing the design, I met with Isaac Moyers at Contracting Engineering Consultants, the team’s steel supplier, to arrange our steel order for the bridge. We then began working on the jig – the frame that holds steel parts in place for welding – and Jacob worked with Shanti Hamburg, industrial engineering shop manager at WVU, to learn how to make connections using their CNC mill.”

Once the steel was received, the team worked to cut and machine it into what was needed for the design. Once enough parts were ready, Dickson and Takoda Kelly from Albright, who assisted with fabrication, welded them together into trusses, while Roh, Braddee and Formica worked on the poster presentations that are required for the competition.

“Toward the end of spring break, I began matching pairs of trusses and fitting them with connections,” Boyles said. “Apart from a few features, John and I had the whole bridge assembled on March 23. After that, John and Takoda spent a couple of late nights welding to get the bridge ready for Alyssa, Rachel, Adam, Connor and Titus to practice building, and stood by during practices in case any work still needed to be done. The build team had less than 10 practice builds before regionals but still managed to get their time under 20 minutes to win the event.”

The team now heads to the national competition, which will be held at the University of Illinois in June.

“Compared to regionals, nationals are a whole other level,” Boyles said. “I don’t know how we’ll match up to teams from around the country, but we’re going to do the best we can and learn while we’re there. I’ve seen improvement with the steel bridge team every year, and I’m sure the team will continue to improve in the future.”

Made up of 20 civil engineering students, the Concrete Canoe team came up with about 25 different concrete mix designs and tested small cubes for compressive strength before settling on the right mix of compressive strength and workability for their canoe. Unfortunately, they ran into an unexpected issue when they arrived at the conference.

“When we opened the trailer to see how the canoe had done on the drive, it was completely cracked in half and in two pieces,” said Taylor Bertholdt, team co-captain from Pasadena, Maryland. “So, the team had to scramble to tape the canoe back together, while my co-captain, Allison Givens (Nettie), and I attended meetings and presented our oral presentation.

“We were really worried about the tape because it is an automatic point deduction but were even more happy in the end when we still got second place.”

Joining Bertholdt and Givens on the team were Chase Jarrett (Nitro), Chris Alessio (St. Albans), Daniel Hamrick (Elkins), Danielle Schlapo (Falling Waters), Drew Reiter (Sykesville, Pennsylvania), Emily Kwiatkowski (Virginia Beach, Virginia), Hunter Plum (Kingwood), Jessica Francis (Bridgeville, Pennsylvania), Krista Kutzner (Westminster, Maryland), Quentin Borum (Sterling, Illinois), Shane Bodkin (Parsons), Shane Swearman (Hanover, Pennsylvania) and Tyler Ashbrook (Wheeling). Steel Bridge team members Roh, Braddee, Croghan, Formica and Smith were members of the team as well.

By virtue of its second-place finish, the Concrete Canoe team is a wild card for the national competition, which is scheduled for June 6-8, at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida. According to Bertholdt, the team will find out its fate through a Facebook Live video scheduled for early May.

The teams were advised by John Quaranta and Fei Dai, associate professors of civil and environmental engineering, who noted the teams’ hard work produced great outcomes that were well deserved.

“The Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe teams worked tirelessly to succeed in the regional competitions, and I congratulate them on their accomplishments,” said Hema Siriwardane, professor and Department chair. “We are very proud of them and wish them continued success at the national competitions.”



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