Lakehead University’s Steel Bridge Team heading to the national competition again


Photo of the Steel Bridge Team.

From left to right, Conrad Hagstrom, Support Technologist; Samuel Gagnon; Derek Bulsink; Nicole Visser; Thomas Gobeil; Jonathan Morrow; Dr. Tony Gillies, Faculty Advisor.


April 13, 2017 – Thunder Bay, ON

Lakehead University’s Civil Engineering Steel Bridge Team is once again making waves.

The team placed first overall at the AISC/ASCE Student Steel Bridge Competition, Mid-West Region, which means Lakehead has qualified for the 2017 US National Competition, hosted by Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon in May.

Students Nicole Visser, Samuel Gagnon, Jonathan Morrow, Thomas Gobeil and Derek Bulsink are competing on the Lakehead bridge team, with Dr. Tony Gillies serving as the faculty advisor and Conrad Hagstrom as the support technologist. Kailash Bhatia acted as machinist advisor to the team.

“The competition allowed us to showcase knowledge attained from the outstanding Lakehead Engineering program,” Visser said. “All eyes were on us as Lakehead has had great success at the Midwest Regional competition throughout past years, frequently winning first place.

 “Through hard work and many long hours we are proud to once again achieve the Midwest Regional championship title. We have qualified for the National competition (at the end of May), which means there is more work ahead and we are looking forward to the challenge,” she added.

Dr. Gillies was excited that the team was doing exceptionally well again this year. 

“I am proud that the 2017 Lakehead University student team has maintained the University’s reputation for excellence during the years of participation in this competition, since first attending in 1998,” Dr. Gillies said.   

“They can now look forward to the 2017 National Competition where approximately 50 university teams from across North America will compete in Oregon for the top honours.”

The Lakehead team’s bridge took first place for display, second for lightness and stiffness, first for construction speed,  first for construction economy (based on construction time and bridge weight) and second for structural efficiency (based on bridge weight to stiffness ratio) – placing first overall.

The Lakehead team competed against eleven other universities from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Manitoba, and others places, at the annual regional competition held in early April at North Dakota State University.


Overall ranking of the top five at Regional Competition

1)     Lakehead University

2)    North Dakota State University

3)    Iowa State University

4)    South Dakota State University

5)    University of Manitoba


The competition challenges students to design a bridge made of steel, and to fabricate a 20-foot long, 1:10 scale model of the proposed bridge that satisfies the 35-page specifications and site drawings provided to all teams last September.

The models are erected under simulated field conditions, and are then load-tested by the students at the host university. The specifications for the bridge change from year to year. This year the teams had to choose between a longer single span bridge or a shorter bridge with a cantilever extension.

 The teams had to evaluate both options and select the geometry that they felt would score best under the evaluation criteria.  The rules mirror what it would be like to build a full-sized version of the bridge, taking into account the materials cost (weight), labour cost (construction time), traffic load (simulated test load), and performance (measured deflection under load). 

Not only does the event test the students’ structural design capabilities, it also challenges them to fabricate and construct their design.   

Support Needed

The students appreciate the support from local companies, unions and associations to assist in meeting the costs to participate in the recent competition. The team would welcome additional sponsors for their upcoming competition at Oregon State University in May.  Anyone interested can contact the team’s faculty advisor Dr. Gillies at 343-8684.




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Visser and Dr. Gillies are available today for interviews. Unfortunately the bridge cannot be photographed or filmed, because the team will be bringing it to the national competition.



Media: For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Brandon Walker, Media Relations Officer, at (807) 343-8177, or




Lakehead University has about 9,700 full-time equivalent students and 2,000 faculty and staff in 10 faculties at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead is a fully comprehensive university: home to Ontario’s newest Faculty of Law in 44 years, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and faculties of Engineering, Business Administration, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Social Sciences & Humanities, Science & Environmental Studies, Natural Resources Management, Education, and Graduate Studies. In 2016, for the second consecutive year, Re$earch Infosource ranked Lakehead first among Canada’s undergraduate universities. Visit