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

Photo of Lakehead's Steel Bridge TeamFrom left, Mack Barber, Kevin Langdon, Matt Olinski, Yunseul Shin, and Ben Degroot are heading to the national steel bridge competition in late May.

April 23, 2018 – Thunder Bay, ON

Lakehead University’s Steel Bridge Team placed first overall in the regional competition held recently in Iowa City.  

Twelve regional universities from Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Manitoba, including Lakehead University, participated in the AISC/ASCE Steel Bridge Competition.

Matt Olinski, Yunseul Shin, Ben Degroot, Kevin Langdon, and Mack Barber were on Lakehead University’s Steel Bridge team, with faculty advisor Dr. Tony Gillies and support technologist Conrad Hagstrom.  Kailash Bhatia acted as machinist advisor to the team.

“This competition gave us the opportunity to unveil the skills and knowledge we obtained from the Lakehead Engineering program,” said Olinski, team captain.

“Knowledge obtained from our Engineering Drawing, Structural Analysis, Steel Design and Civil Engineering Analysis courses provided the basis for designing, analyzing and optimizing the steel structure,” he said. Other skills such as time management, team collaboration and leadership, which the students indirectly learned from the Engineering program, were integral to the team’s overall result.

“The competition also allowed us to oversee a technical project from start to finish. From the first design drafts on paper to the final design, fabrication and testing of the bridge, it has been a long process,” Olinski said.

One important lesson the team learned was that a design is only as good as how constructible it is. “A good design meets your goal, but a great design achieves your goal in a cost and time efficient manner,” he said.

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

Overall Ranking of the top five at Regional Competition

1)      Lakehead University

2)     University of Wisconsin-Platteville

3)     Iowa State University

4)     North Dakota State University

5)     University of North Dakota

“This is the 20th year that a team of Lakehead University Civil Engineering students have participated in the Student Steel Bridge Competition,” said Dr. Gillies, faculty advisor to the team.

“The Lakehead team has maintained the University’s reputation for excellence and Lakehead Teams have now qualified for the National Competition for 18 out of the 20 competitions.

“They can now look forward to the 2018 National Competition where approximately 50 university teams from across North America will be competing in Illinois for the top honours,” Dr. Gillies said.

The regional competition challenges students to design a bridge made of steel, and to fabricate an 18-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 find the optimum balance between bridge weight and deflection under load to maximise their performance.  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 competition 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 in Illinois in May.  Anyone interested can contact the team’s faculty advisor Dr. Tony Gillies at 343-8684.


– 30 –



Media: For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Brandon Walker, Communications and Marketing Associate, at (807) 343-8177 or


Lakehead University has approximately 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. Maclean’s 2018 University Rankings place Lakehead University among Canada's Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities, as well as first in Total Research Dollars, second for Citations, and third for Scholarships and Bursaries. In 2017, Research Infosource named Lakehead Research University of the Year in its category for the third consecutive year. Visit