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Bridge building has have been one of the litmus tests for second year University of Canterbury (UC) civil engineering students in Christchurch for nearly 20 years.
Next Monday will be the iconic bridge-building day over Okeover stream at UC for more than 100 civil engineering students.
The bridge competition is about students having to design, construct and test a bridge which sustains two people but fail with three people on it.
US senior lecturer in structural engineering Alessandro Palermo said students had to design innovative shapes and make the bridge aesthetically pleasant.
``This leads to complex and strange bridges and the students feels more challenged and motivated. Students get inspiration from famous bridge designers such as Santiago Calatrava, Robert Maillart, Michel Virlogeaux to come out with their own innovative concept.
``The competition is the event of the year in the civil department at UC. People love watching the bridges being tested and students falling into the water,’’ Dr Palermo said today.
``Although, there are not many bridge engineers in New Zealand, the hope is to stimulate the creativity and will for innovation for the next generation of bridge engineers.
``UC has produced some prominent bridge designers who are in the front line with the Christchurch rebuild including Mike Cowan, head of bridge engineering division in OPUS (Christchurch) and Nik Stewart, head of bridge division in BECA (Christchurch) .’’
Recent graduates are working in important project. Ex-UC masters student Anton Kivell is with BECA working on the Transmission Gully bridge project in Wellington.
There are master students who are deeply involved also in research projects relating to bridges including Victoria Worner and Sam White. They will become future bridge engineers.
``Their careers all started from the bridge building competition here on campus. The passion, the willingness to do it, the inspiration for a sensational bridge brings students closer to the world of bridge engineering,’’ Dr Palermo said.
Third year civil engineering student Chloe McKenzie said she loved building a bridge over Okeover last year. Her group were successful in the bridge building last year, winning an aesthetic award.
``The bridge-building was fun. Construction and judging takes place at a public event held on campus. It’s high drama. We build our bridges over a stream, so people always end up in the water. We were really happy. It’s a cool project. It’s real-world learning,’’ McKenzie said today.
``I think the bridge building exercise was by far the best experience I have had at UC so far. It allowed you to follow the design process from the start through to the end. It was so important to see how issues could be found in your design when trying to construct the bridge. Time management and use of personal and resources was also a big learning step in the process,’’ McKenzie said today.
``I now understand the basics in bridge design. Next year for my project I am continuing structures and bridge design. My project is pedestrian bridges: for structural efficiency, aesthetics, cost effectiveness. I’ll be proving a conceptual design for Dallington pedestrian bridges in Christchurch.
``This should further my knowledge in bridge deign but I am unsure if I will be able to design a bridge from start to finish after this, I am not sure.
``I have always had a passion for problem solving, math, science and graphics and design. This had pushed towards Civil/Structural Engineering. I want to have the chance to design something amazing, a major monumental structure of any type. This could be a bridge or skyscraper, just something new and innovative. I would also like to help out in Canterbury rebuild.
``I am from Bluff where I attended Southland Girls High School in Invercargill. I choose UC for several reasons. UC is the best university in NZ to study engineering. The atmosphere of the halls of residents was so welcoming and homely. And UC is close to home but a quick away drive to places like Hanmer Springs where you can go for a relaxing weekend away,;; McKenzie said.