Tuesday, June 1, 2010

OU engineering project bridges classroom to real world

OU civil engineering students weather delays to build a 270-foot pedestrian bridge and pier at Norman's Morgan Park, OU's largest student-led project of its kind.

By James S. Tyree | Newsok.com | Published: June 1, 2010

NORMAN — The University of Oklahoma's school year ended two weeks ago, but several civil engineering students continued working on a project this week that will enhance a Norman neighborhood.

University of Oklahoma civil engineering students build a 270-foot pedestrian bridge and fishing pier at Morgan Park on Thursday.

The students completed a 270-foot pedestrian bridge and fishing pier over a large pond at William Morgan Park on Thursday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend. The park is in a neighborhood just east of 36th Avenue NW and north of Robinson Street.

Chris Ramseyer, an OU assistant professor of civil engineering, said the project's planning and construction was unprecedented for the students involved.

"This is the largest project the student organizations have ever attempted,” he said of the American Society of Civil Engineering and Architectural Engineering Institute chapters.

Ramseyer said the wheelchair-accessible bridge will extend a walking trail from about 200 yards to a full mile. One area, shaped like an open square, will serve as an outdoor classroom where OU associate professor Bob Nairn can teach about wetlands and aquatic life.

The process started in October when city officials asked engineering students and faculty to replace the deck and make a few repairs to the 10-year-old bridge. But upon further examination, they found the entire structure needed to be replaced.

The city of Norman agreed to provide about $8,000 in supplies while students supplied the labor and expertise with help from faculty adviser Ramseyer.

"And of course, I have bought an awful lot of pizza,” Ramseyer said.

Rain and winter weather delayed the project for months, but the group has worked each weekday since May 17, the Monday after commencement, to complete the structure.

A student team led by Michael Van Zandt and Chris Davis designed a structure that should last much longer and be more stable than the previous one. The deck is supported by about three dozen wood frames driven into the mud until a bearing bar reached the bottom of the pond.

Ramseyer said the new base is stronger and more environmentally friendly than if built on concrete.

"I'm a guy who gets to jump in the water,” said David Frank, a master's student in tall waders. "This is the most hands-on project, for sure. Course work can't teach you communication, and that's what you get out here because you work on a team — plus it's fun.”

Cassie Gonzales, a junior from Flower Mound, Texas, pointed to another innovation — metal tension rods installed across the 6-foot width every few feet.

They are accompanied by three small boards, and together the rods and boards distribute weight evenly by stiffening the deck and making its individual parts work as one.

"That's something I've learned here,” she said, "along with working with power tools for cutting and drilling.”

Other team members are Patrick Crowder, Carlos Rincon, Jesse Roswurm and Seth Roswurm.

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