SIU steel bridge team

Members of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale steel bridge team compete in the Midcontinent Student Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers, hosted by SIU in April. (Photo by Steve Buhman)

October 02, 2018

SIU named to host 2019 national engineering competition

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Engineers-in-training from around the country will descend on Southern Illinois University Carbondale this spring for a national competition that challenges bridge designers seeking the ultimate in strength and efficiency.

The American Institute of Steel Construction has announced SIU as the host for the 2019 national finals for its Student Steel Bridge Competition. The event is May 31-June 1, with about 40 teams and 600 to 700 participants from all over the nation. Top regional competition  from throughout the nation will qualify to compete.

“It is always an honor to be selected to host a national conference or competition.  Such activities bring national recognition to the quality of our civil engineering program, our college and university,” said John Warwick, dean of the College of Engineering.

Steady growth in national student competition

The Student Steel Bridge Competition was first held in 1987 as a competition of three schools in Michigan, said Christina Harber, who is helping organize the competition on behalf of its sponsor, the American Institute of Steel Construction. That number grew to 13 schools by 1992, when the first national competition was held.

Since those early days, the competition has grown, with 42 schools participating in the finals this year.

SIU Carbondale hosted regional contest earlier this year

This past April, SIU  hosted the Midcontinent Student Conference of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which included the AISC regional steel bridge contest, among others. SIU engineering teams won top spot in both the steel bridge and concrete canoe competitions – the first time SIU teams won first in both competitions. About 16 teams attended that event, with the university receiving many compliments on how smoothly it went.

Harber said SIU students approached her during that competition, inquiring about hosting the national competition for the steel bridge portion.

“The Student Steel Bridge Competition is one of our most important programs with the national finals as one of our largest events,” Harber said. “SIU has the experience, enthusiasm and support from students, the department, alumni and the community to make this a remarkable event and an outstanding experience for the students.”

Opportunity to showcase SIU Carbondale’s programs

Sanjeev Kumar, chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said the competition is one of the largest in which engineering students participate.

“An invitation to host this event demonstrates that SIU is a comprehensive university with the infrastructure needed to host such an event, and the confidence that AISC has in our students’ ability,” Kumar said. “This is an exceptional opportunity for us to showcase the Saluki Country and Saluki hospitality to the national audience.  I have full confidence in our students to make this event even more successful than the regional.”

Warwick said 2019 will mark the first time the American Institute of Steel Construction is organizing the event. 

“It is therefore a special honor to be recognized for our past performance and to know that we will now be setting expectations for future hosting of this high-profile event,” he said.