VIU Engineering Bridge Design Contest Includes Students from Vietnam

Kristy Burkgren (left), Xristos Vassilopoulos and Seth Fleming-Alho are all members of team Gold Standard. They anxiously watch as Dr. Brian Dick, who teaches the Engineering Design II course, loads 80 kilograms of weight onto the bridge deck the team constructed for the April 7 Engineering Bridge Design Contest. Not pictured is Gold Standard member Mike Andrews.

March 27, 2017 - 12:00pm

VIU’s Engineering Design Competition ties Vietnam’s Tra Vinh University engineering students to engineering students from VIU

Bridges are being built across an ocean thanks to the annual Vancouver Island University (VIU) Engineering Design Competition.

Engineering students from both Vietnam’s Tra Vinh University (TVU) and VIU are competing to come up with designs and models based on real world bridges. The best designs and most functional bridges will be awarded prizes.

To facilitate the friendly challenge VIU students were tasked with designing a replacement for Long Binh Bridge #3 in the City of Tra Vinh, which is located just over 130 km south of Ho Chi Minh. The Vietnamese students are creating designs to replace Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge, which is currently scheduled for replacement.

Dr. Brian Dick, Chair of VIU’s Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy, says the bridge design competition is an annual event at VIU, but even though VIU and TVU have a long history of student and faculty exchanges, this is the first time engineering students from the two institutions have come together to compete in the contest.  

“The exchange of ideas and designs with TVU has certainly resulted in new challenges – time management, conflict resolution, overcoming language barriers and cultural differences, just to name a few,” said Dick. “But through this process students from both schools are learning how valuable communication is to the success of their projects and they are getting a better idea of how international design projects work by using real bridges as their starting point.”

Four teams of students at TVU studied the Johnson Street Bridge in detail. From that research and through talking to their counterparts at VIU, they came up with designs to replace the aging Victoria draw bridge. Those designs were sent to four VIU teams who are now building models from them using popsicle sticks, dowels, a variety of sensors and actuators, as well as Arduino microcontrollers to raise and lower the bridge decks. In Nanaimo, four teams at VIU came up with designs for the TVU students based on replacing the Long Binh Bridge #3.

“Through this process students from TVU must ask their counterparts design questions about traffic flows, what the citizens of Victoria might be looking for and consider design characteristics that might be different than what is expected in Vietnam,” said Dick. “The same is true for our students. They must try to envision what a bridge in the City of Tra Vinh should look like and what kind of boat, vehicle and pedestrian traffic it will be required to handle.” 

Twelve teams from VIU are competing in the competition, which is sponsored by Herold Engineering Inc. and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC). While four of the VIU teams are working with TVU, the eight other VIU teams are building bridge models designed by other teams in their class. Dick says there are a number of challenges the students must meet, one of which is to make the models aesthetically appealing and another is that the bridges be capable of supporting 80 kilograms of weight.

VIU engineering student David Hildebrandt, who is on a team of four students that go by the name of Infinity Tech, says the contest and the grade they get on their work when it’s over is something they take very seriously.

“Our approach was to really focus on the base structure because it has to support 80 kilograms, or almost 180 pounds, so we went a little overboard there,” said Hildebrandt. “One night in the lab we decided to roll in four ATV tires to do our own weight test. Once we stacked them all up on the deck we were pumped to see it held up.”  

Infinity Tech team member Arjun Sekhon says they are now working on building the rest of the structure and completing their project for the April 7 unveiling.

“I’ve done quite a bit of work on the truss design, which I’m basing on what I learned from doing roof trussing as a summer job,” said Sekhon. “Since the base is so strong we are designing the beams to direct all the forces from the deck to the base. Overall, it’s a really challenging task and a lot of work, but it’s been fun for all of us.”

The bridges built by VIU students will be on display Friday, April 7 in the upper cafeteria (Building 300) at VIU’s Nanaimo campus between 9 am and 2 pm. The public is invited to stop by and celebrate the achievements of these up-and-coming engineers and provide feedback on how well they met their design objectives.  

The competition is part of the Engineering Design II course. For more information please go to VIU Engineering.


Media Contact

Dane Gibson, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6288 | C: 250.618.7296 | E: |  T: @viunews

Tags: Student Success

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