The competition will consist of the construction and testing of a model timber bridge on the home site of each team.


The competition is open to all student chapters of American Society of Civil Engineers and Forest Products Society in the United States and Canada. Joint and multiple entries from one school will be accepted.


Each contestant (team) will be required to design, build and test a bridge constructed from wood structural members. The wood used in this project must be from a commercially available species. Contestants may use donated materials and/or services, however, donated services may not include any form of fabrication or preparation of composite bridge members. Be sure to check out our list of more than two dozen links to wood products design data, technical values, specifications, treatment information, supplies, etc. on the main page for the Competition


All wood members must be treated to AWPA standards. Retention levels for bridge members not in contact with the ground (deck, rails, upper trusses, etc.) may meet "above ground use" standards. Retention levels for bridge members to be in direct contact with the ground must meet “ground contact” standards. See www.awpa.com for details on ordering publications and standards or go to Western Wood Preservers Institute then select preservative type for standards tables.

NOTE: Since all the most common procedures for meeting AWPA standards require pre-treatment in a pressurized environment to attain adequate retention levels, the treatment type and process should be part of the bridge design process, rather than a post-treatment alternative. There are plenty of safe treatment materials available, so student safety should be considered, but not prohibitive. The life expectancy of all metal fasteners, cables, plates and other non-wood components should be considered for all bridges expected to have a “life after competition”, however, this will not be a competition requirement.


Design Span: 3.8 meters from center line to center line of supports. The maximum length of an individual piece in any member shall not exceed 2.1 meters. There is no length limitation on built-up and laminated members provided that the individual pieces, including plywood, used in making the member do not exceed the specified maximum length. Maximum width of supporting base plates is 60 mm.

Horizontal Clearance: 1.4 minside curb to inside curb.

Vertical Clearance: 2.5 meters from deck surface (overhead clearance).

Depth of Understructure: Maximum of 500 mm at center-span and 1000 mm at support base measured from top surface of deck to lowest point of support structure.

Test Load: 20 kN for 1 hour. (See test setup for location of loading blocks.)

Load Application and Deflection Measurements: The load will be applied in 4 equal increments of 5 kN each, with the full load of 20 kN being achieved in not less than 5 minutes or more than 20 minutes. Deflection readings will be recorded at each 5kN load increment. Then, four deflection readings shall be recorded at 15-minute intervals during the 1-hour full-load duration.

Maximum Vertical Bridge Deflection: Maximum allowed bridge deflection is 9.5 mm as recorded at midspan of the longitudinal beam receiving the greatest loading. Subtraction from deflection due to compression of supports will not be allowed. If two or more longitudinal beams are predicted to receive equal loading, select only one to monitor, or monitor all such beams and submit average deflection (contestant's choice).

Maximum Vertical Net Deck Deflection: Maximum allowed net deck deflection is deck span divided by 100, with deck span being measured as the shortest side of the largest “deck panel” formed by 2 longitudinal members and 2 transverse members, if applicable. "Deck panel" is defined as any area of clear-span deck bordered (i.e. defined) by the 2 nearest longitudinal bridge support members and the 2 nearest transverse support members, if applicable. In other words, deck span is the distance between points monitored by the 2 gauges at points 3 and 4 below. However, note that deck span is actually measured from inside structural member to inside structural member.

Gross deck deflection shall be measured under the centroid of the loading point placed where the deck is calculated to experience maximum deflection under full loading if the 4-point was moved anywhere on the deck. This point should be the same as the center of the largest “deck panel” described above. The selected loading point must be at the deck’s weakest point. It must be halfway between any transverse members such as floor beams, deck stiffeners, cross-bracings, diaphragms, etc. that make contact with the deck’s underneath surface. It must also be halfway between any adjacent longitudinal support members.

Net deck deflection shall be determined by subtracting the average of the deflections recorded in the 2 bridge structural members forming the longer side of the largest bridge “deck panel” as recorded at midpoint of the longest sides of the “deck panel” and as measured by gauges at points 3 and 4 below. See “Test Setup” sketch for details on placement of the 4 loading points, size of bearing plates, etc.

Note that more than one loading setup may be required to properly measure both bridge deflection and deck deflection at their weakest points, i.e. at points of expected maximum deflection. Some designs may, however, allow for one loading setup to monitor both defections. If needed, the 4-point loading setup may be moved as a unit transversely only to monitor Maximum Vertical Bridge Deflection, but it may be moved as a unit both transversely and longitudinally to monitor Maximum Vertical Deck Deflection, thus placing any one of the four loading points over the center of the largest “deck panel".

Drawings must clearly document location of load points. Location of all monitoring gauges for each loading set-up must also be shown as follows:

  1. Midpoint of longitudinal beam predicted to experience maximum loading. Resulting deflection is Maximum Vertical Bridge Deflection.
  2. Centroid of largest “deck panel” as described in Maximum Vertical Net Deck Deflection above. Resulting deflection is Maximum Gross Deck Deflection.
  3. At midpoint of one of the longest sides of the selected “deck panel”.
  4. At midpoint of the other longest side of the above “deck panel”.

Note that distance between point 3 and point 4 is Deck Span. Net Deck Deflection is deflection measured at point 2 subtracted by the average of the two deflections measured at points 3 and 4. Failure of drawings to clearly document location of above 4 gauge points and the location of the 4 loading points (at one or both setups as applicable) will result in disqualification. Disqualification may also occur if photos “c” and “d” below (See Documentation) contradict drawings.

Bridge Deck: The bridge deck does not have to be wood, but note 25% by weight nonwood restriction on total bridge weight. Any material can be used as long as: it is designed to effectively transfer loads at all locations on its surface to the support structure, is not an open grid, can be treated to withstand weather-related deterioration, can withstand repetitive traffic loading and wear, and is capable of supporting the complete 4-load combination moved anywhere on the deck surface. In other words, it must work in real-life application! The maximum length per piece limit (2.1 meters) still applies to deck materials. The deck must be uniform in thickness, material, etc. throughout (i.e. “beefed up” deck in the area of the load point selected for gauging deck deflection will cause disqualification).

Prestressing: Prestressing will be allowed provided it is done 48 hours before testing.

Bridge Weight: Bridge must be weighed before testing and must include all bridge parts forming a part of the bridge as a structural system. Note that total non-wood components cannot exceed 25% of total bridge weight.

Curb: The curb does not need to resist a force but must be connected to the bridge. The curb may be a part of arch or truss members. Curb material must meet same requirements as Deck except for load-bearing.


Contestants will be required to submit by email:

  1. Digital Photographs: Transmit in .gif, .jpg, .tif or .bmp format. No .pdf files can be received. Photos must be no larger than 640 x 480 pixels in size; and if possible, with 300 dots per inch resolution or better. Transmit to southwest@msrcd.org as attachments to one email, with each file titled showing school name abbreviated and photo labeled per rules. For example, “MSU side view finish.gif”. Color prints will be accepted only if contestant does not have access to digital camera. Following photos are required (no more, no less!):
    1. Four photos of bridge construction featuring key structural components of bridge, such as deck, longitudinal supports, transverse beams, connectors, etc. as applicable. No more than 4, please!
    2. One photo of weighing bridge
    3. One end view of loading setup
    4. One side view of loading setup
    5. One photo of each deflection monitor at full loading, with identification sign indicating, "deck", "beam left", "beam right", “bridge”.
    6. One side view of finished bridge from above plane of bridge deck
    7. One end view of finished bridge from below plane of bridge deck
    8. One trimetric view of bridge (showing both side and end)
    9. One group picture of design team either on bridge or with bridge in foreground from a trimetric view
    10. NOTE: In pictures "h" and "i" above, try to avoid background and foreground clutter. Adding a sign with school name is advisable for future publicity.

  2. Digital Drawings:
    1. Must be adequate to inform judges of bridge dimensions, including size and spacing of all longitudinal and transverse components.
    2. Must show 3 views (overhead, side, and end) or show 1 trimetric view (preferred!) if all required details can be shown.
    3. Must show location of the selected load point monitored for deck deflection, the location of the 4-point load setup for bridge deflection, and the location of all gauges monitoring structural member deflections for determining both deck and bridge deflection.
    4. Must be transmitted as e-mail attachments in either .jpeg (preferred) or .gif at size of approximately 640 x 480 pixels. No autocad or .pdf files can be received. Name file as "msu side draw.jpg", etc. showing school name, then view.
    5. NOTE: Be sure lettering is large enough to read easily on computer screen! Avoid light colors for lines and numbers; avoid black backgrounds.

Following materials should be mailed to reach Competition coordinators by deadline:

    1. Drawings: Mail an 8 1/2-inch x 11-inch hard copy of bridge drawing(s) entered online. See Drawings requirement above. This item is mandatory.
    2. Certification and Entry Form (print from website). This item is mandatory.
    3. Any photographs required in "a" through "i" above or a computer disk containing the digital photos. No zipdisks, please! Neither of these are required if the required digital photos were successfully transmitted in the format and size stated, but is recommended.
    4. A complete printout of the Online Entry. This item is optional, but recommended.


A technical report must be submitted online via Internet using templates provided and will include:

  1. Abstracts: Using maximum of 500 words, explain the bridge design concept and explain what was done to optimize stiffness while attempting to minimize weight of the structure.
  2. Table of all recorded test results of deflection measurements.
  3. An itemized materials list showing weight of each item and total weight of bridge. The total weight of non-wood material must be less than 25% of the total weight of the bridge. Glue is non-wood.
  4. A short summary (max. 500 words) describing the bridge and its behavior under load.
  5. Short description of major bridge components (10 words or less per component).
  6. Description of preservative treatment used and why it was selected.
  7. Project impact. Was the experience beneficial to design team? What end-use did the bridge have after testing?


A panel of three independent judges not affiliated with any contestant institutions will select the winners. Entries that do not meet all rules and performance criteria will be disqualified for consideration for Performance and Best Design Award but will be eligible to compete for Special Awards. No single entry shall be eligible to receive more than three (3) awards.

AWARDS: (Note: There will be no monetary awards in 2011)
  1. Best Overall Design - This award is intended to reward intellectual effort, regardless of how the design meets the performance-related standards. Judged using following points:
    • Design is a configuration of structural elements that can be optimized through normal engineering methods (20%)
    • Design makes efficient use of structural materials (20%)
    • Design is based on structural concepts that have broad applications (20%)
    • Design shows intellectual efforts (20%)
    • Judges' Review/Report (20%) (adequate documentation, clarity, neatness, content, abstract, photos, video)
      • Performance Awards
        1. Best Support Structure - Judged based on weighted criteria:
          • Maximum Bridge Deflection 30%
          • Total Bridge Weight 10%
          • Percent Nonwood (total bridge) 10%
          • Practical 20%
          • Innovative – Structural Design 15%
          • Innovative – Materials 15%
        2. Best Deck Design - Judged based on weighted criteria:
          • Net Deck Deflection 30%
          • Total Bridge Weight 10%
          • Percent Nonwood (total bridge) 10%
          • Practical 20%
          • Innovative – Structural Design 15%
          • Innovative – Materials 15%
      • Special Awards:
        • Most Practical Design - Design that can be practical to implement in real-life design and construction; low-tech and easy to construct (low materials and labor costs).
        • Most Aesthetic Design
        • Most Innovative Design (in the use of new and non-traditional materials and/or construction methods)


Deadline for online entry http://southwest.msrcd.org/timberbridge and receipt of mailed materials is April 12, 2013. Mail to SW Mississippi RC&D, P. O. Box 3670, Brookhaven, MS 39603. Enclose following information with mailed material:

    College or University
    Student Chapter name, address, phone, fax, e-mail. Be sure address is a permanent department mailing address; will be used for mailing awards check.
    Faculty advisor
    Contact person.

All materials received by RC&D will become the property of RC&D.


Winners will be announced online by May 3, 2013. In addition, the full entries of all participants will be released online and available for all contestants as well as any Internet user to review. Each can learn from the successes and failures of others! The results will also be publicized through various publications.


Submit questions by e-mail to bhutchins@wildblue.net, or contact Bennie Hutchins, phone 601-748-2622. Check Q & A/Updates regularly for valuable competition updates, rules clarifications, etc.

©2019 Mississippi Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils.
Report errors to: Keith Mazer.