UAF steel bridge team finishes second in national finals

The UAF steel bridge team
Photo courtesy of Ben VanderHart
Members of the UAF steel bridge team following the finals competition at Virginia Tech University. Back row, from left, Zach Miller, Ben VanderHart, Branden Hansen, adviser Wilhelm Muench and Lucas Gomes. Front row, from left, Madelin Weeks, Jenna Hernandez and Haylie Cortez.

A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks took second place in the 2022 Student Steel Bridge Competition finals, the best showing for UAF in more than a quarter century.

The annual engineering contest, organized by the American Institute of Steel Construction, uses a variety of criteria to judge student teams on their efforts to design and build a unique steel bridge. 

UAF’s team has regularly qualified for the national finals, which were held this year May 27-28 at Virginia Tech University. But this was UAF’s highest finish since 1996, when the team also finished second. 

Three student builders constructed UAF’s bridge in 5 minutes, 20 seconds, while taking third place in the categories of aesthetics, lightness and construction economy. Those scores helped UAF claim second place overall in a field of 38 teams at the finals, finishing behind only the defending champions from the University of Florida.

“We were just overjoyed,” said team captain Ben VanderHart. “We knew we had something special this year.”

Along with VanderHart, team members participating in the finals included Branden Hansen, Zach Miller, Lucas Gomes, Haylie Cortez, Jenna Hernandez and Madelin Weeks. Wilhelm Muench, an instructor at UAF’s College of Engineering and Mines, was the team advisor.