Student-built bridge stands tall at legislature

April 24, 2009

Solar cells, smart sensors, and a binary clock were features on the bridge 
Solar cells, smart sensors, and a binary clock were features on the bridge

Engineering students at North Carolina State University who designed and built a fully functional temporary pedestrian bridge outside the Legislative Building in Raleigh were rewarded for their efforts with the 2009 Future of Engineering Award.

The 2009 Future of Engineering Award competition involved development of a design for a temporary pedestrian bridge that is suitable for rapid deployment in remote areas. The competing teams were evaluated by College of Engineering faculty based on the innovative nature of the design, the inclusion of other disciplines from within the College of Engineering, use of sustainable/green materials and/or construction techniques, suitability of the design to meet the allowable constraints, and constructability.

Visitors to the Legislature try out the bridge 
Visitors to the Legislature try out the bridge

The students received the award, which is sponsored by the American Council of Engineering Companies of North Carolina (ACEC/NC), at a ceremony at the bridge site on April 22. "ACEC of North Carolina has always had a close relationship with NC State and the other engineering schools in the state," explains Kenneth Smith, P.E., president of ACEC/NC. "We think that having this innovative bridge design constructed on the Halifax Mall during our legislative events will help highlight the importance of engineering to the state's future and will demonstrate the great work that is being done at NC State in the field of engineering."

ECE Senior Design students Dan Ternes, Jeremy Page, Steven Varela and Joey Cashman added electrical and electronics enhancements to a bridge built by Civil Engineering students. A solar powered electrical system was design and built that powered the entire bridge, including wireless sensor systems designed by Computer Science students.  In addition, the four ECE students designed a binary clock that was hung on the bridge and composed a "layman's guide" for interpreting the display that was etched in wood.  They also designed LED panel lighting that automatically turned on at dusk and produced a very attractive illumination of etched glass panels showing NCSU icons.

The plaque explaining how to read the binary clock 
The plaque explaining how to read the binary clock

According to their instructor, Bart Greene, "This is one of the finest examples of high quality engineering and collaboration with other departments that I have seen."

Student participants also included members of team "medCount" -- Hersh Tapadia, Daniel Jeck and Pavak Shah -- from the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program.

The ceremony occurred as part of Engineering Days, an annual event held by the engineering companies of ACEC/NC to highlight the leadership role that engineering plays in the present and future prosperity of North Carolina. Engineering Days 2009 (April 21-22) was a program presented by the American Council of Engineering Companies of North Carolina (ACEC/NC) to raise awareness among elected and appointed officials and the general public about engineering's importance for our state's future prosperity.

Students built the bridge after winning a competition that required teams to design a temporary pedestrian bridge suitable for quick deployment in remote areas. Teams were evaluated by College faculty based on several factors, including the innovative nature of the design and the use of sustainable materials and construction techniques.

Students built the bridge on April 21 and were on hand the following day to give tours and answer questions about its construction. The students were recognized for their work by Sen. Tony Rand in the N.C. Senate chambers.


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