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Timber Bridge team donates competition structure to city

Charlie Nemmers, Dave Nichols, Josh Garton and Mark Virkler stand in a group photo.

Dave Nichols, assistant director of Public Works for the City of Columbia (second from left) accepts the timber bridge from team president Josh Garton, Charlie Nemmers and Mark Virkler, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department chairman. Photo by Katie Bell.

After being a bridge to nowhere over the summer, the Mizzou Engineering Timber Bridge team’s award-winning structure will fulfill it’s structural mission. Faculty within the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department contacted the City of Columbia to see if the city could use the structure in any way. They said, “yes,” and the team donated the bridge to the city in September. The City of Columbia formally accepted the bridge at its Oct. 6 city council meeting and listed its intent to be used at Strawn Park.

Team president Josh Garton said the team had hoped it could find a functional use for the bridge.

“The ultimate goal is that we donate the bridge or have a client with a specific purpose in mind,” he said.

Mizzou’s Timber Bridge team had not competed since 2008. It was revived when faculty adviser and C.W. LaPierre associate professor Hani Salim approached Garton asking if he was interested in building a bridge and recruiting members. Garton accepted the challenge and the team entered the resulting bridge in the the 2014 National Timber Bridge Design Competition, where it placed fifth overall among 11 other university’s entries and also received four other auxiliary awards,

The truss bridge measures approximately 16 feet wide and was made of pressure-treated pine, which the team received with the support of Boone County Lumber. Garton said the team designed the bridge last fall and spent about 200 man-hours over six weekends in the spring to construct the bridge.

The online competition was headquartered in Mississippi and organized by the Southwest Mississippi Resource Conservation and Development Council. Entry deadlines were in April, and the competition results were announced in May. Travel isn’t necessary for student teams to compete.

At 776 pounds, Garton said they tested the bridge for deflections and submitted those measurements along with the summary essays and abstracts, which contained information about the bridge, design specifications and performance evaluations. In addition to its fifth place design ranking, the team also received second place for best support structure, fourth place for best deck and most innovative design and fifth place for most practical design.

Strawn Park is currently an undeveloped park in northwest Columbia the city intends to use as a trailhead for the Perche Creek Trail connecting existing trails, such as the Katy Trail, to Interstate 70.

For next year, Garton said the team hopes to partner with a business or individual and to build next year’s contest entry, using guidelines set forth by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It would be nice to have a client in mind,” he said. “Then we can build a bridge that fits their specific needs.”