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Mizzou Timber Bridge Team reaches top

Four men stand atop a bridge in a workshop.

After not having enough members to build a bridge last year, the Mizzou Timber Bridge Team won a national championship for this year’s bridge. Photo courtesy of Michael Schoelz.

Last year, the Mizzou Timber Bridge Team didn’t have enough members to make constructing a bridge for competition worthwhile.

What a difference a year makes.

Not only did this group of MU engineering students have enough manpower to build a competition bridge, but the bridge earned the Mizzou squad a national championship in the National Timber Bridge Design Competition, beating out four other finalists for the top spot.

An influx of new members added a shot of creativity, and a design not typically seen at the competition helped Mizzou earn first place in the overall design, support structure, deck and innovative design categories — enough to vault them past San Francisco State, State University of New York, Kansas and Temple to claim the title.

“I hadn’t really heard of anybody using a king post truss design in this competition, so we decided to try it and see how it did,” team member Forest Davidson said.

A king post truss design looks triangular from the side with support beams coming out from the center. The beams above work in conjunction to support the deck below. Heirloom Handcrafting provided additional materials and tools, and the team set about building its winning design.

Last year, organization president Michael Schoelz said that only three members were still active in the group when it came time to build the competition bridge, leaving the team short on hands for construction. This year, he focused a great amount of effort on recruiting enthusiastic and capable team members, which paid off.

“We were able to not only build this bridge, but win, and we went from not building a bridge to winning this year due entirely to the fact that we had people who were dedicated to the project throughout,” he said.

Going forward, the goal is to build off this victory to grow membership.

“I think if people saw what we built, they will also want to be a part of it,” Schoelz said.