2012 West Point Bridge Design Contest

It’s that time of year again, and the 11th annual West Point Bridge Design (WPBD Contest) Contest is starting. Registration is free and open to anyone, so I encourage you to try your hand in this fun contest. The software for the contest is simple to use, and actually is a great tool for learning how bridges work, and how forces are spread out in a given bridge design.

Here is the link to the main site:

Manilla File Folder Bridge

Is it just me or is the slenderness check new for this year? I did not get much of a chance to play around with the 2011 version, so I am not sure if it is brand new or not. The slenderness check caught me by surprise and is somewhat annoying.

I’d love to hear your comments about the program and how you are doing in the contest.

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58 Responses to “2012 West Point Bridge Design Contest”

  1. Ryan - January 20, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Does anyone have any helpful tips/hints for this? Thanks

  2. Garrett Boon - January 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I’ve broken 160k, but I am having a hard time getting past that.

  3. Ryan - January 24, 2012 at 11:57 am

    Will there be a local contest this year?

    • Garrett Boon - January 25, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      Most likely yes. I am thinking about starting it a little later, maybe in March.

  4. Jake (Big Jake) - January 26, 2012 at 1:40 am

    Long time no talk Garrett! And to answer the question no the slenderness was introduced in the 2011 version… Awful idea in my opinion, ties the hands of the builders a little too much. Im glad to see you in the contest this year, I finally got about an hour to set down today and play with it some school just has me so busy here lately. What are you working with I am currently at 148.8K and that only has me at 8th in the open, so im not too sure where the bottom of this years program will be, but if i had to guess I would say 140K or so.

    • Garrett Boon - January 26, 2012 at 2:14 am

      Ah, Jake. I was wondering if you would pop in for this contest. Good to see ya back.

      The reason they give for the slenderness handicap is that real “slender” members are too hard to work with on the jobsite. I guess this would be true, although I am sure it could be worked around if the engineer really wanted to use slender members. Perhaps they should have just increased the cost of slender members rather than not allowed them at all.

      I am at 152.6k. I haven’t had much time to try to improve and unfortunately I don’t know if I’ll get any more time. I’d love to be able to finish in the top 5 of the open competition. I never did that well in the earlier competitions even when I had more time to devote to it, so we’ll see.

      • Jake (Big Jake) - January 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm

        Yeah I feel ya, time is my major problem these days there just not enough of it, it seems like. And I honestly may be partially responsible for the slenderness rule due to some of the “unique” bridges that I have done well with lol. Like the one that I submitted in your local contest that time that had the bow like middle pier, but I dont know it may not have anything to do with it.

        • alex - January 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm

          i really dont understand how you guys are making these bridges costs so low. My friend, lowest inour school is at 158k, and Im stuck at 170k. If you could please post some ideas to help me with this project, that would be awesome. my 170k is a small arch at the lowest altitude, with tons of time working to get the cost lower and now i have hit a wall. Please help, thanks.

          • Mark - January 31, 2012 at 9:41 pm

            It takes time to get lower, just test a lot of bridges. You can’t get super low price very easily with the lowest height, cause your starting costs are double what they are for the highest height.

          • Issac_Frost - February 10, 2012 at 9:16 am

            If you want to drop the price, think of this : the site cost is a huge factor in the total cost. the lower the altitude, the higher the site cost. the higher the altitude, the higher the bridge cost. try a design at a higher altitude to balance the cost out. try 4m instead of 0m. then try higher altitudes. my bridge is 150k and its at 20m. glhf (good luck and have fun)

  5. Mark - January 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Garrett, What height are you at? I’m down to mid 158′s but I think my site configuration might be limiting me (second lowest height, peir up to the bridge).

    • Mark - January 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      Edit: Down to low 154s

      • Garrett Boon - January 28, 2012 at 8:12 pm

        Did you raise the height?

        • Mark - January 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm

          Yeah, I raised it to 20m (highest with a centered pier), the pier height is also 20m, with medium strength concrete and centered loading.

          My design is basically a Warren pony truss straight across, with about 2 hours worth of optimizing to get it down to the low 154′s. I’m guessing that to get any lower I will need to use a non-standard truss design that hasn’t been nerfed to oblivion thanks to the slenderness check.

          I’m trying to win my local contest (schoolwide, I’m in second right now, trailing by a little less than 1k last time I asked the first place team), which would also put me in the bottom end of the top 40 (they are team Ice-Breakers, in 36th). My current best of $154,236.81 has me in 99th place nationally.

          A lot of my optimization was from switching from all Q&T tubes to using bars in tension areas and tubes in compression areas (tip from the help menu) and dropping the materials down on many of the bars that were stronger than needed when they ran into slenderness issues.

          Any other tips would be greatly appreciated.

          • Garrett Boon - January 29, 2012 at 9:00 am

            Aha, we think alike. While it would be easy for me to tell you how to get to 152k (where I am at), that really wouldn’t help you learn anything. So here are some questions. Also keep in mind that obviously the way I am doing things has only gotten me to 11th place in the open. Lots of people are designing cheaper, and perhaps better, bridges.

            Have you noticed sometimes when you lower a member’s size, the price goes UP? If you have noticed this, do you know why? WPDB 2012 uses a lot of factors to calculate the price of the bridge, and you have to understand all the things going on or it will be confusing.

            Have you tried making an arched shape bridge?

            I know with things like this contest I tend to get stuck thinking in traditional boxes, which only get me so far. I don’t know if there is an unconventional truss design that works with this year’s software (like Big Jake’s winner of my local contest).

          • Mark - January 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm

            Yup. Having a ton of members that are identical brings the price down. Helps even more if they are the same length.

  6. Issac_Frost - January 29, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Im currently 1st in my local contest and 84th nationally. my bridge is 152.2k and it is killing me cause i just cant figure out how to lower the price to 150k

    • Garrett Boon - January 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      What have been the things that have helped you so far?

    • Mark - January 30, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      Looks like you’re in 37th if your username is the same. What are you down to now?

      • Issac_Frost - January 30, 2012 at 6:12 pm

        im at 151k my bridge is a double arch at 20m with a 20m peir medium strengh concrete and centered loading. do u know what i could do to drop it lower? and out of my local contest im 2nd. my rival Maxthedemacian is at 146 rite now. anyone know how i can beat him?

        • Issac_frost - January 31, 2012 at 12:18 pm

          honestly all i need is a way to break 150k. my current bridge looks like the 2007 winner except there is a pier instead of that odd bar pattern.

  7. Garrett Boon - January 30, 2012 at 7:10 am

    $151k now.

    • Mark - January 30, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      What did you change? Or whole new design?

      • Garrett Boon - January 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm

        Just minor tweaks. Mostly adjusting some members so they are the same length.

  8. Ryan - January 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Has anyone seen a noticeable difference in the center lane vs. two lanes for the trucks? Are the certain situations in which one of those options is preferred?

    • Mark - January 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      I’ve only gotten 156k with 2 lanes. I’m at 154k with centered.

  9. Jake (Big Jake) - February 1, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Well Im down to about 146.1K now, though I think Im about 1K under the last bridge I have submitted. Im not too big on some of the strength changes on the types of beams this year, they have really improved carbon over last years program.

    • Issac_Frost - February 5, 2012 at 11:11 pm

      what did u use to get it that low? would u have any tips for breaking 150k? btw good job on 146k =)

  10. Ryan - February 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    This is my first year using this software and I can only get down to 158.4 k. I don’t understand what types of designs to use I feel like I’ve tried everything and am getting no where. Any hints or tips?

    • Garrett Boon - February 3, 2012 at 7:27 am

      158.4k is not bad for your first year, especially since the contest just began. Read the rest of the comments here which give lots of advice that will help you out.

  11. Michael - February 15, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    I’ve gotten my bridge down to about 150k, but i can’t seem to get any lower than that. I’m starting to fall behind in my local conetest. Any tips?

    • Issac_Frost - February 16, 2012 at 7:37 am

      same here. I was in 1st but I’ve dropped to third in my school. try tweaking the positions of your pivots so they aren’t centered. sometimes that works, while other times it messes up the design completely. good luck and have fun with your design.

  12. Regina - February 16, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    I can’t seem to go lower than 164k and it’s my first year
    Currently in 2nd place :
    I’m not confident about using other trusses besides warren and I can’t seems to use other materials other than hollow tubes…
    Can anyone get me out of this box ?

  13. Jake (Big Jake) - February 16, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Well I was falling behind and worked on it a while… Got mine down to 143.5k, but had to change site configurations. Fairly simple design.

    • Issac_Frost - February 27, 2012 at 7:34 am

      did u use a pier? if so, then what height did u use?

  14. Jarred - February 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    hey im trying out the new program and needed some help i need to make a bridge 0 m with a pier and cant get it lower than 161970 think anyone can help me if you can email me at jarredthorn@yahoo.com it would be greatly appreicted

    • Jake (Big Jake) - February 20, 2012 at 12:30 am

      Your lucky you got that low at 0M with a pier… Move on up in the valley but keep the pier.

  15. Regina - February 18, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Can anyone help me make a 161k or 160k bridge? I only have one goal and that’s to get number one in my school. Email me at regina_andes@yahoo.com
    Please, help me :

    • Regina - February 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Nevermind, I need: 159k

  16. Ben - February 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    What is everyone using as their design? I am down to 153k after hundreds of designs but I simply dont get how getting in the 140s is possible. I’m currently at 20m and have a 20m pier. Can anyone else suggest something that would help me lower this. (the price of course, not the bridge). I’m looking at different truss designs but with no significant progess. can someone please help me out here who has gotten around or under the price of 153k.

    • Jake (Big Jake) - February 24, 2012 at 1:18 am

      Drop you pier a notch and i know for a fact you can knock 6k off your price ;)…. Thats all Im giving you though.

      • Garrett Boon - February 24, 2012 at 7:57 am

        Dropping the pier takes off 2k of the site config cost. You are saying that you can also take off another 4k of the price, by having a lower pier? This must be that out of the box thinking that I am not good at.

        • Garrett Boon - February 25, 2012 at 5:42 pm

          Now I see the light. Thanks for that tip.

          • Ben - February 25, 2012 at 5:45 pm

            Please explain if you get it. I get that you can lower the pier, but it only takes a couple k off and to replace it you need a tube thats like 3 or 4k.

          • Garrett Boon - February 25, 2012 at 6:19 pm

            That was my line of thinking earlier. But you are not just replacing it. You are making a more flexible bridge. My design changed a little bit as I played with the new possibilities after lowering the pier.

        • Jake (Big Jake) - March 2, 2012 at 1:00 am

          I see what your saying but your thinking a little too simple, dont just replace the pier with a single beam. Come off the top of the pier with a “Y” and connect the insides of the 2 arches to the “Y” instead of in the middle. Changes the structure and flow/distribution of pressure significantly. I figure since the contest is over and Im ineligible that I mine as well share some knowledge. Im down to 142.7k now.

    • Yohoiu - February 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      I did a 24 m bridge with a 24 m tall pier and used double arches. I am currently down to 136k, with all hollow bars, but it is impossible to get any lower.

  17. Issac_Frost - February 23, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Is there any other design other than a arched-shape bridge that HASN’T been nerfed to oblivion?

  18. Cynthia - February 24, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Hi, this is my 1st year of designing the westpoint bridge, my cheapest design so far is 16K and can’t get any lower than that. Could anyone give me some suggestions/tips to help me getting out of that box? It would be very appreciated.

  19. Ben - February 25, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    thanks. That helped out. the new designs with a pier seemed much stabler.

  20. Maddie - February 25, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    This is my first year in the West Point bridge contest, and I cant get any lower than 17k I am at a complete loss, and I don;t have a team mate:(

  21. George - February 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Big Jake I Have currently gotten my bridge down to 146.1K and it is a double arch with a pier at 20 m I need to get it down about 2K do you have any advice? or help you can offer

    • Michael - February 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm

      What do you mean a double arch? What material did you use?

  22. Issac_Frost - February 27, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Hey Garrett, if you are going to have a contest what day are you going to start it on?

    • Garrett Boon - February 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm

      Early March. I’ve been super busy with work lately but I will try to put it together soon.

  23. Rachel - March 10, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Will the local contest be soon?

    • Garrett Boon - March 11, 2012 at 7:39 am

      Yes, sorry for the delay. I just sent in the request for a contest code so we should be able to start soon.

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