Students Design Pennsylvania Bridge at Stevens Institute of Technology

4/29/2011

Civil Engineering students at Stevens Institute of Technology are engineering a solution to a real life problem with a bridge replacement project in Lower Salford Township, Pennsylvania. The Senior Design team of Jeffrey Hart, Louis Nemeth, Michael Pagliaro, Anne Marie Prieto, and Edzon Valle, and advised by Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Dr. Leslie Brunell, designed a two-lane replacement for the current one-lane bridge over Skippack Creek. The project is sponsored and evaluated by The Louis Berger Group, Inc.

Bridge ModelThe team's final product is an 83-foot two-lane single-span bridge design that conforms to design specifications of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) while minimizing environmental impact and keeping costs low.

Even with the rigorous design guidelines, the project allowed the team to develop its own solution to the problem of replacing a deteriorating single-lane bridge. "In this project, we got to do everything from scratch. The project was ours," Ann Marie says. "It was a wonderful learning experience."

The team drew upon their experiences in Stevens classrooms and in the field through Stevens extensive cooperative education experience to design their project. "Bridge design was a totally new area for most us, but we were prepared in other ways," Michael says. "We incorporated everything we learned before – steel design, concrete design, geotechnical engineering, and water resources engineering – and we took it up a level to apply it all to a bridge. We had to learn a lot really fast, but this was very advantageous to our future careers."

"This project introduced the team to the many facets of a typical design project, and allowed the team mebers to focus on specific areas of the design while gaining familiarity with other aspects," says Dr. Brunell. "This introduction to a complete bridge design will hopefully help them real-world engineering fundamentals as they begin their careers as engineers."

In addition to designing by AASHTO and PennDOT regulations, the team had to contend with scour, the removal of sediment from around bridge abutments by swift-moving water. Scour is the most common cause of bridge failure in the United States. Jeffrey Hart was in charge of ensuring that the bridge does not negatively impact the stream it runs over. This meant checking 100 years of floodplain data, evaluating the scour to the previous bridge, and designing a solution for the bridge they designed.

For Louis, overcoming real-world challenges like scour are what make civil engineering so engaging. "A lot of what appealed to me was the ability to be on-site. You can be out there on a construction site, faced with real challenges, as opposed to working in a cubicle."

The project challenged each member of the team to design every aspect of the bridge to the best of their abilities. "I'm a 5/5 co-op student, so I was exposed to bridges in my work, and the calculations associated with them. In co-op though, I was only reviewing calculations," explains Edzon Valle. "For Senior Design, we had to design from the ground up. It was a great challenge. We spent a lot of time and hard work on that, and it ended up being very rewarding."

It was the application of all these components that led Edzon to pursue civil engineering. "I'm a structural guy. I like the theory behind it, and I really enjoy doing the structural component," he says. "I was debating whether buildings or bridges, but given my experience with this, and my co-op experience, I know that I am definitely going to design bridges."

About The Louis Berger Group, Inc.
The Louis Berger Group, Inc., is an internationally recognized consulting firm that provides engineering, architecture, program and construction management, environmental planning and science, and economic development services. The group is devoted and trusted partner to federal, state, and local government agencies; multilateral institutions; and commercial industry. To this diverse client base, it brings strategic vision and an entrepreneurial spirit, developing innovative solutions to some of the world's most challenging problems. With a resource base of 5,000 employees and affiliate employees in more than 90 countries, The Louis Berger Group is able to respond to local conditions while providing its clients with the technical resources and rapid response capabilities of a leading global organization.