Lakehead University’s Steel Bridge Team brings home two awards from National Finals

Photo of the Steel Bridge Team holding the bridge above their heads.

From left, Matthew Scott, Felix LaSalle, Damien Grayda, Philip Duke, and Paul Graham demonstrate
why their bridge came second in lightness.

June 6, 2022 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

Five Engineering students from Lakehead University travelled to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA to compete in the ASCE/AISC Student Steel Bridge National Finals on May 27 and 28.

The 2022 team, led by Dr. Yanglin Gong, includes Damien Grayda, Paul Graham, Matthew Scott, Felix LaSalle, and Philip Duke.

The competition was held over two days with bridges from 34 North American universities being judged on aesthetics, construction speed, lightness, stiffness, construction economy, structural efficiency, overall performance, and cost estimation.

The team placed 11th overall and brought back two awards: second in lightness and second in cost estimation. Lakehead came first out of the Canadian teams in overall ranking, ahead of the University of British Columbia, which placed 14th.

“The competition was an amazing way to finish my studies at Lakehead University,” said team captain Damien Grayda.

“In all my years of being in post-secondary, this certainly is the accomplishment I am most proud of. My team worked incredibly hard, faced adversity, and overcame many challenges to get where we are,” he said.

“The competition atmosphere is something I would recommend to anyone. Being able to meet students from across North America was unbelievably enlightening. The bonds formed by sharing our ideas, experiences, and challenges made for a weekend I will never forget.

“The level of ingenuity that every school brought was inspiring and, although I will not be competing, has made me eager to provide guidance for next year’s team to help them achieve their goals,” Grayda added.

Paul Graham, the team’s co-captain, said taking this project from inception all the way to designing and building the bridge was the best learning experience that he had at Lakehead University.

“Seeing the creativity other teams used in the design of their bridges and in their construction sequencing was eye opening,” Graham said.

“What I learned from this experience and the connections I made was priceless. I look forward to being able to take what I’ve learned moving forward in my career and to help next year’s team to excel and to represent Lakehead at the National Finals again.”

The team prepared for this competition for an entire year, spending over 1,500 hours on the project.

“Their commitment and work ethic made me feel honored to be the faculty advisor for this team,” Dr. Gong said.

By participating in the bridge competition, students learn many important skills in addition to the technical aspect. Such skills include teamwork, communication, leadership, fundraising, and networking.

 “It even helps build character and perseverance,” Dr. Gong said.

“From talking with former bridge team members, their involvement with the competitions ends up being the fondest and most lasting memories of their Lakehead educational experience, which they carry with them and share with other students throughout life.”

The 2022 National Finals was the 21st year that Lakehead University’s Steel Bridge team participated in the American competition. It was also the first in-person competition since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the regional competition hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in April, the Lakehead team won first overall, and qualified for the national finals. In total, about 150 universities competed in 20 regional conferences. Among them, 35 teams were invited to the National Finals.

“This is a great achievement,” said Dr. Sam Salem, Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering.

This proves that the Lakehead steel bridge team is strongly standing out to continue the legacy of over 20 years of victories in this top international student competition,” said Dr. Sam Salem, the chair of the Department of Civil Engineering.

Support Needed

The team appreciates support from companies, unions, and engineering firms to assist in meeting the costs to participate in the competition. The team would welcome additional sponsors for future competitions.  Anyone interested can contact the team’s faculty advisor, Dr. Yanglin Gong, at or (807) 343-8010, ext. 8412.




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Media: For more information or interviews, please contact Brandon Walker, Media, Communications and Marketing Associate, at (807) 343-8010 ext. 8372 or


Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has nine faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2022 World Universities Rankings for the third consecutive year, and the number one university in the world with fewer than 10,000 students in THE’s 2022 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit