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Timber bridge team wins “most practical design”

Timber bridge team members and their advisor pose on the Quad with the bridge they designed, which took third place in the "most practical design" category in competition. Pictured from left to right are Jeremy Welschmeyer, Adam Kral, Patrick Earney, Advisor Hani Salim, Joshua Long, Derek Vap and Ardeshir Mansouri.

Wooden bridges have largely gone the way of horse drawn carriages, both replaced with innovations arising from the industrial revolution, though arguably a better case can be made for a car in every garage than for a span of cold steel over every stream.

Just ask the folks at Southwest Mississippi Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. Since 1993 the U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development program has invited student chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Forest Products Society (FPS) to submit entries to the National Timber Bridge Design Competition. This year, Mizzou Engineering’s ASCE chapter competed for the third time, and though the project is a first for all team members they placed in the money, taking third in the “most practical design” category. The designation comes with a $100 prize.

Design plans began in the fall. “We worked with a spreadsheet program,” senior Adam Kral, ASCE president, explains. “That way, instead of doing hundreds of calculations, we could change them easily.” Graduate student Patrick Earney aided with design, and the group’s advisor, Hani Salim, an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering, provided advice.

“The students worked hard and were able to translate their theoretical knowledge into a practical application. They designed an efficient, practical, and beautiful bridge,” Salim said.

Contest entries were submitted electronically, based on a precise set of specifications and design criteria. The competition is intended to promote wood as a bridge construction material, to develop an appreciation of the engineering capabilities of wood, and to generate innovative, inexpensive timber bridge design techniques.

Kral estimates that upwards of 600 hours of student time went into building Mizzou Engineering’s entry into the competition. “We started building it the Friday before spring break,” said Kral, “and we completed it by the deadline on April 6.

“It’s a good learning experience,” he added. “ It uses everything that you learn in the classroom. It’s better than an internship.”

Even before final results of the contest were in Marty Walker, director of Mizzou Engineering’s administrative services, contacted City of Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman to query if the bridge might not be used in somewhere in the city. Hindman happily accepted the offer.

Though a permanent home for the bridge has not been selected, Columbia Park Services Manager, Michael Griggs, is delighted with the donation.

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