Tandon’s Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe Teams Dominate Regional Competition

Tandon’s Steel Bridge and Concrete Canoe Teams

For the first time in school history, Tandon teams won first place in both the ASCE regional canoe and steel bridge competition.

Students from NYU Tandon have amassed a solid record of performance in American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) challenges, placing in the organization’s Steel Bridge Competition (aimed at those who will someday engineer national infrastructure) and Concrete Canoe Competition (which offers aspiring civil engineers new perspective on a material fairly ubiquitous in their field).

This year, however, marks the first time in school history that both the bridge and canoe teams landed in the number-one spots in their respective regional competitions, providing double the reason for celebration.

Skill and Steel(y) Resolve

The Steel Bridge Competition, sponsored by ASCE and the American Institute of Steel Construction, requires students to conceive, design, fabricate, erect, and test a steel structure that meets client specifications and optimizes performance and economy. Participants thus gain experience with real-world engineering issues, including spatial constraints, material properties, strength, serviceability, safety, aesthetics, and project management.

Under the guidance of Professor Alexey Sidelev and Alum Mark Milkis (who participated in the competition during his own student years), the team designed a bridge that weighed 144 pounds and sustained an asymmetric load of 2,500 pounds with a deflection of just under 0.7 inches. (Deflection is a measure of how much the structure moves while bearing a static load; among the categories in which the bridges are judged is “structural efficiency” – the ratio of deflection to weight.) 

The Metropolitan Regional Conference, which attracts teams from such schools as Cooper Union, Rutgers, Stevens, and Fairleigh Dickinson, was held in early May. There, three students from the Tandon team erected their bridge in only 17 minutes. “We worked hard to optimize our design for ease of construction,” team leader Chris Katsanos explains. “But that has to be done while also optimizing for efficiency, weight, and stiffness, which affects the bridge’s ability to resist deflection.”

In addition to landing in first place overall, the Tandon bridge also scored top marks for efficiency and stiffness — accomplishments all the more impressive in light of the fact that virtually all of the fabrication required for the project, including welding, was done in-house, by students. (Some university teams create their designs and then hand them over to professional outside fabricators — a shortcut fully permissible in the contest rules, but one that Tandon has always eschewed.)

Concrete Gains

The ASCE Concrete Canoe Competition challenges students to design, build, and race a vessel that will float despite being made of a material that laypeople assume would sink upon being placed in water — a feat possible because floatation depends upon the amount of fluid displaced by a vessel, and the canoes are large enough to displace an adequate amount. (Steel ships are seaworthy for the same reason.)

Teams are judged not only on the canoes themselves, but on oral presentations and design papers, as well as on a series of endurance and sprint races — a particularly tall order for those team members who have been ensconced in classrooms and labs rather than hitting the gym to use the rowing machine. At the competition regionals, Tandon’s overall win was the result of their top-place finishes in the categories of final product, oral presentation, and racing points.

“Our canoe was in a league of its own, and team is so proud of all they have done,” project manager Elizabeth Cass said. “The competition is such a bonding experience on top of the academic challenges, and we are grateful for all the help Professors Weihua Jin and Jose Ulerio provided in advising, coaching, and mentoring us.”

Onward and Upward

In late May the Steel Bridge team will vie against 41 others at the National Student Steel Bridge Competition hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the Concrete Canoe team will travel to California in late June to compete against 24 others at the National Concrete Canoe Competition, at San Diego State University. (This is the first time in school history that the canoe team has made it to Nationals three years in a row.)

Here’s hoping the canoers paddle their way to national victory, and the bridge builders deflect the efforts of their rivals.

Department Chair Magued Iskander feels confident that whatever the ultimate outcome, Tandon’s competitors will have gained valuable experience that will serve them well in the future. "Engineering projects are always collaborative team efforts,” he asserts, “so these events provide a good chance for our aspiring civil engineers to work toward a meaningful common goal.”

Steel Bridge Members

  • Victor Alvarez
  • Tarah Driver
  • Chris Katsanos
  • Matt Light
  • Ziyi Ma
  • Cece Wu
  • Leo Zang

Concrete Canoe Members

  • Nader Ahmed
  • Elizabeth Cass
  • Tanan Choibat
  • Joel Batista Freitas
  • Harshal Gevariya
  • Lara Lin
  • Sumaita Mahmood
  • Si Yun Park
  • Joshua Ojo
  • Sage Scheiwiller
  • Toby Yun