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Billiken BEAMS

Billiken BEAMS

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.

For more information, contact the Billiken BEAMS team at or 314-977-8443.


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 registered basis.

Key Dates
  • October 6: Registration opens
  • November 10: Registration closes at 5 p.m.
  • November 18: Computer modeling workshops and material pickup. Each team will be notified of a time slot to attend.
  • February  16: Bridge reports due by 11:59 p.m.
  • February 24: Billiken BEAMS competition. 10 a.m. - Noon

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.

Competition Rules
  • Each team should submit a report, complete with diagrams, pictures, graphs and any other reference needed to completely present their bridge.
    • The report summarizes the design and construction of the bridge.
    • The report should summarize what the team learned during the computer modeling.
    • The text of the report should be size 12 Times New Roman or Arial fonts and double-spaced with citation of references.
    • The report shall be submitted on 8-by-11 inch paper with 1-inch margins.
    • The length of the report should not be more than four pages, including figures, drawings, etc. Figures, drawings, etc. should be embedded and referenced within the text.
    • The report is due by 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 16 and should be emailed as a PDF to .
    • 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 bridge.
  • 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 seats.
  • 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 determined as:
    • 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.
Competition Rubric

Awards will be given to the top two 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 load)
  • 15 points: Design and construction report
  • 15 points: Aesthetics

Total equals 100 points.