Bridge builders steel for regional contest

YSU students compete against teams from Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The clanking of steel echoed in the basement hallway of Moser Hall at Youngstown State University.
The civil engineering majors worked quickly to erect the painted black bridge, their fingers balancing nuts and bolts and spinning socket wrenches.
"We're working at it," said senior Gary Hilliard of Youngstown, showing off numbers on a stop watch: 3 minutes, 45 seconds.
In a nearby classroom, two students painted red letters and a YSU penguin on the side of a concrete canoe. The long gray mass was hollow in the midsection with two covered air pockets at each end.
Details, practice
The work, earlier this week, was part of the last-minute details and final practice for an American Society of Civil Engineers regional competition running today through Saturday at the University of Kentucky.
Twenty YSU students are competing against college teams from across Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania in three competitions: steel bridge, concrete canoe and a surveying contest.
In the timed steel bridge competition, they are required to design and build a bridge that can handle a 2,500-pound load with no more than a 3-inch deflection, explained junior Lance Kraynak of West Middlesex.
Rules are strict: Points are deducted for dropping nuts and bolts; feet must stay flat on the floor; only one student -- the "barge" -- is allowed to stand in the "water" as the bridge is built.
Senior Dave Worst of Vienna was the barge during the practice run.
"Come on, give me the other side," he said, holding half of the bridge. Then, fitting the steel pieces together: "Bolts in."
The canoe must be able to float when filled with water. It will also race, said junior Adam DePizzo of Austintown.
"We have high hopes," said Hilliard, who sits as secretary of the YSU chapter of the ASCE and was recently named male Engineer of the Year by the YSU College of Engineering and Technology.
This is the second consecutive year YSU has entered the bridge contest. The university has not entered a canoe in eight years.
Working as a team
Although students in the department often compete against each other on test scores, preparing for the competitions made them a team.
"Now, we're competing together," Hilliard said. "We're taking all our skills and representing YSU, representing Youngstown, we're representing the community."
The community has given the team a boost. More than a dozen businesses have donated cash, bolts, concrete, paint or other products. The Ironworkers Union Local 207 gave students use of their shop.
Hilliard said a goal was to get "everybody involved." The three teams are diverse, with women and men, sophomores, juniors and seniors. And one team includes a graduate student from India.
While painting the canoe, sophomores Angela Zwick of Canton and Christie Ruffner of Austintown, said the hands-on experience has given them a heads-up.
"A lot of the stuff we've done is stuff that's done in the classes ahead of us," Zwick said. "We feel ahead in our classes. Now I actually understand and know what's going on."