USU wins Air Force University Design Challenge with collapsible bridge

LOGAN – The mechanical engineering students at Utah State University did it again. For the second year in a row, USU came out on top at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Design Challenge. This year’s challenge was to build a portable bridge that could be used by a soldier in a variety of situations.

Teams were given nine months and $20,000 to create the bridge. USU decided to split the money in half, allowing two teams to compete in the challenge. Both teams came out with the two highest scores at the competition, putting USU in first place. Ohio State came in second while Brigham Young University scored third place.  

The Design Challenge took place in April at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. While each team consisted of seven people, only four team members could travel to Florida for the competition. Both of USU’s teams chose to send three members along with one Air Force member to run the course.

The course consisted of platforms standing four feet off the ground. The crossing distance started at four feet. The length then increased by two feet for every platform until reaching up to a distance of 20 feet. Teams were judged on the length of the bridge, the weight it could handle, and the time it took to complete the course. Bridges were expected to hold the load of a fully-equipped 350 pound soldier. Other factors were the ease of operation and multipurpose design.

Team member Jeremy Kingsford said he expected a lot of the designs at the challenge to be similar, but he was surprised to see how much Utah State excelled. “When we showed up, we could clearly see that Utah State had put a lot of engineering principles in their design,” Kingsford said.

USU teams not only made it through the entire course with their bridges, but they also showed their versatility as both bridges could be used as stretchers and ladders.

“We wanted our bridge system to be a device that the Air Force could actually go out and use today,” Kingsford added.

Utah State was awarded $100,000 to go forward with building a second generation prototype of the bridge. They will focus on things such as making the next bridge lighter and stronger.  

“This sets us apart as a competing school for engineering,” said team leader Preston Rich. “It was a good boost for me to understand that my money spent at Utah State to get a degree was money well spent.

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