Saint Louis University’s Building Engineering Awareness in Metro Saint Louis Schools
Competition — or Billiken BEAMS — is a group-based project opportunity in which students
compete in teams to design and build road-based bridges out of balsa wood.
Billiken BEAMS is hosted by SLU's student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology and is open to high school
students in the metropolitan St. Louis area.
The object of the competition is to see who can design, construct and test the most
efficient road bridge. Efficiency is calculated as the load supported in pounds divided
by the weight of the bridge in pounds.
Teams design a bridge to meet the competition specifications and bring their designs
to SLU to create a computer model of the bridge with the help of civil engineering
faculty and students. The materials used in the construction of the bridge are provided
to the teams at the end of the computer modeling session. The teams then have until
the date of the competition to construct the bridge.
In order to compete, students should form teams of two to four members and register
using the online registration form.
Each team must designate a primary team contact who will complete the registration
and process payment for the entire team. The primary team contact is usually an advisor,
teacher or parent who will lead the group. Do not register team members individually.
Registration is open to the first 30 student groups who sign-up on a first come, first
The registration fee is $25 per team and covers all bridge construction materials,
team member T-shirts, attendance at the preparation workshop and participation in
the competition. Payment can be submitted online using SLU Marketplace.
Late reports will not be accepted. Teams submitting late reports will receive 0 points
for the “Report of Design and Construction.”
Each bridge will be checked prior to testing by the judges. Bridges that fail to meet
the construction specifications will be disqualified. Bridges disqualified prior to
the start of the competition may be tested as exhibition bridges at the discretion
of the team and competition directors.
Each team’s constructed bridge will be weighed prior to the load-testing phase of
the competition. The final weight will be used in the efficiency calculations of the
Each team will be given five minutes to prepare their bridge for evaluation. Preparation
includes placing the bridge on the support-bearing seats and installing the metal
plates with loading rods on the bridge.
The two support-bearing seats will be placed on a flat, level surface 28 inches apart.
The facing planes of the support bearing seats will be parallel and exactly 28 inches
apart. The bridge will be placed on the support-bearing seats.
The bridge may only rest on the support-bearing seats. The bridge may not bear on
the inner sides of the support bearing seats and no additional support from the floor,
ceiling, walls or any other object is allowed.
The bottom chord of the bridge shall not be lower than the top of the support-bearing
The bridge will be subjected to two-point loads at 10 inches from each support. The
loads will be applied at the bottom chord of the bridge.
The bridges will be load-tested to the point of failure. Failure of the bridge is
Complete collapse of the bridge. This is defined when the bridge is no longer able
to carry any additional loads, or
Excessive deflection (sagging) where the bridge is no longer functional.
Awards will be given to the top three teams which are determined based on the total
points earned during the evaluation process. Below are the categories and maximum
points available for each category to be used in the evaluation of the bridges:
20 points: Bridge meets specifications
30 points: Load carrying capacity prior to failure (100 pounds maximum permitted load)
20 points: Load/weight efficiency ratio prior to failure (100 pounds maximum permitted