Lakehead Steel Bridge Team Places First in Regional Competition

Lakehead University’s Steel Bridge Team placed first overall against eight other teams in the annual regional competition held Saturday, March 16 at Iowa State University.

With the victory, the Lakehead team of Civil Engineering students advances to the US National Steel Bridge Competition in Seattle at the end of May for the 13th time in the past 15 years of competing.

Students Natalie Scalese, Joe Anger, Randy Roth, Cody Johnston and Raquel Almeida comprised the Lakehead team with faculty advisor Dr. Tony Gillies. Kailash Bhatia acted as machinist advisor to the team.

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

The competition challenged students to design a steel bridge and then fabricate a 17-foot long, 1:10 scale model of it that satisfied the 40-pages of specifications provided to all teams. The group had to take their bridge from their computer model, build it and then test it.

Leading up to the competition, the bridge was designed and the components were fabricated by students at Lakehead University.  The group had to take their bridge from their computer model, build it and then test it.

“Sometimes what we pictured didn’t pan out in real life. We had to design as we went, leading up to the competition,” said Natalie Scalese.

“We learned that what we assumed and what the computer model gave us didn’t always match up with what worked,” said Raquel Almeida.

“This competition gave us the hands-on experience of what happens in real life. The computer calculates things too perfectly – we have to account for the small tolerances,” Almeida said.

“Coming from a small university, it was awesome to be up against such notable schools,” said Joe Anger. “Some teams had dozens of people – we only have five people on our team. It was amazing to be so successful,” he said.

Faculty Advisor Dr. Tony Gillies said he was proud of the team. “Lakehead University has established a reputation for excellence since we started competing in 1998,” Dr. Gillies said. “This year’s team is no exception; they have succeeded in designing and constructing another very competitive bridge.”

The National Competition, to be held at the University of Washington in Seattle from May 31-June 1, 2013, will host approximately 45 teams. 

“We hope for a strong performance at the national competition,” Dr. Gillies said, “but so do about 45 other universities.”

Overall Ranking at Regional Competition

  1. Lakehead University
  2. Iowa State University
  3. North Dakota State University
  4. University of Wisconsin, Platteville
  5. University of North Dakota
  6. University of Iowa

Support Needed

The students appreciate the support from local companies, unions and associations to assist in meeting the costs of participating in the recent competition. The team would welcome additional sponsors for their upcoming competition at the University of Washington, Seattle in May. Potential sponsors can contact the team’s faculty advisor, Dr. Tony Gillies, at (807) 343-8684.

For more information about the competition visit:

Student Paper Competition

The regional bridge-building competition was part of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Midwest Regional Conference, which also featured faculty and industry speakers, as well as the Daniel W. Mead Paper Competition. Students were required to submit a written paper prior to the competition and were given five minutes to present it to a panel of judges at the conference. 

The assigned topic was Body of Knowledge – Is it Ethical to Associate Credentials with Competency. Jonathan Jessome presented on behalf of Lakehead University and placed third behind University of Iowa, and the winner from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.