CORVALLIS - A team of Oregon State University engineering students earned a first place in construction speed at a national bridge building competition at Clemson University, South Carolina.

The team's steel bridge also placed fifth overall in the nation.

Team members, all OSU civil engineering students, included Dusty Andrews and Chuck DuFault, both of Corvallis, Heather Redler of Medford, Joseph Meek of Salem, Kortney Johnson of Coos Bay, Jason Glasser of Roseburg, Cedric Chuigo of Milwaukie and Eric Rau of Dundee.

More than 40 teams competed at the American Institute of Steel Construction's Student Steel Bridge Competition after winning regional competitions throughout the country.

"There were a lot of other schools there and there were a lot of good bridge designs to study," said Heather Redler, an OSU junior and a 1997 graduate of North Medford High School.

The students had to create a bridge that could cross a 14-foot river and carry 2,000 pounds of load in the center of the span. Bridge ends had to be cantilevers, one able to carry an extra 500 pounds. Scores were based on lightness, speed, stiffness, efficiency, economy, aesthetics, and overall performance.

The team built their bridge in 1 minute, 23 seconds, beating their regional time by 33 seconds.

"The fast time is just the result of a lot of practices - a lot of scenarios placing the right people and the right bolts in the right places," said Joseph Meek, an OSU junior from Salem.

"This is the third year in a row that OSU has made it to the nationals," said Kortney Johnson, a junior from Coos Bay. "We performed well this year and in addition to building a good bridge we're building a good reputation not only for Oregon State's engineering program, but for OSU overall." Redler said the competition was a good practical experience, giving the students experience in solving real-life design and construction problems commonly encountered. The students are given site conditions, spans, member sizes, weight limitations and design loads representative of a real bridge.

Keys to success: "Practice --- and when you're competing adrenalin is really rushing," Redler said.

In addition to practical experience in construction and design, team members also valued the opportunity to meet with fellow engineers.

"When we went to Clemson, we made connections with a number of people we will probably be working with in the future," said Johnson, a 1998 graduate of Marshfield High School.

"It was a great experience in that I liked the idea of a national competition where you have an opportunity to meet people from across the country," said Meek, a Sprauge High School graduate.

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Tom Miller, 541-737-3322