Johanneberg Campus is always abuzz with some kind of student activity for one reason or another; recruiting new members for committees, publicising events, celebrating milestones or just giving away free fika, one thing or the other will always catch your eye especially on and around Teknologården. This week thus was no surprise, when there was loud music and a bunch of sutdents hustling around the Chalmers Tram outside the union building. But this time around it seemed a little different, something more grand than just free fika was about to happen. You could see sutdents wearing construction helmets, wood panels and logs lying around and construction equipment being changing hands. So I tought I would dig in a bit deeper to see what is all the hussle about.
As it turns out it is an annual event called the Chalmers Structural Design Challenge. Second year students from A, V, AT and AE sections participate in a competition where they have to design a bridge across A-Dammen (fountain next to the A building). The challenge is to come up with innovative and exciting designs of bridges and the students are encouraged to think ot of the box. Each team is designated certain amount and type of materials and they have to make the most of these resources to build the bridge. A qualified jury then evaluates the bridge on three criterion: technology, functionality and aesthetic beauty. The construction site is usually the area out side the V and A building. Different groups take up spots in that area, set up a work station, put on some music and set themselves into action. Each group has a small pstreamer with the description of thier idea, put up somewhere around their workstation, just to let the ones passing by know what is the activity about. Traditionally, to prove the strength of their bridge each team has to pass over the bridge with all members on the bridge at a distance of almost 2m form one another. It is not a surprise that each year many teams end up falling in to the pond, when their bridge fails to sustain the load of the entire team and collapses. This however is not what the event signifies, the effort, the creativity and efficiency with which these bridges are constructed makes each participant a winner anyway. Índividual reports are also handed in for the design of the bridge and at the end there are scintillating prizes and events for the participants to cleberate their success and participation in this unique event.
The idea is inspired from ambition of strengthing ties between the university and the industry. Every year the event is sponspored and supervised by many different and well known construction companies like COWI and NCC. Usually, the employees of the sponsoring companies make up the jury along with teachers from architecture and civil engineering departments at Chalmers. Each year witnesses a new range and variety of designs. The fact that the students are encouraged to experiment says alot about the approach to teaching at Chalmers; emphasis is always on learning and not on ”what if this dose not work”. The students participating are still nery young in their evolutiona as engineers and the fact that they create an entire bridge from scratch is commendable. The enviornment around the event is festive and very inviting, it is not like a ususal boring sceince competition at school.
I am glad that these students had the chance to assess their thinking patterns as engineers and their team work skills so early in their education. Such events pave way for companies to spot which universities are producing graduates with adequatre arsenal to stand up to the challenges of the future. Looking at the names and number of companies that sponsored this challenge, it seems Chalmers enojys a great reputation in the construciton industry and is going stronger by sitcking to events like these ! Since most of the information related to this Structural Design Challenges is in Swedish only, I wanted to make an effort-with this article-to reach out to all the international students who find such events interesting. Hope it helps!
Pictures by: Hanna Säterskog