My name is Scott Paulhus and I am a Junior Civil Engineering major. I am originally from Atascocita, Texas, which is a suburb of north Houston. I chose the Lyle School of Engineering for several reasons. When I visited SMU for the first time, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. What I found was a beautiful university that offered more for engineering students than I ever could have imagined. I was immediately impressed by the quality of both the facilities and faculty. I knew that I would have the opportunity to work hands-on and that I would be guided by experienced, brilliant minds along the way. The Hart Center for Engineering Leadership was a big draw for me as well. The value of the opportunities that they give students to network and work toward a Co-Op position that will help differentiate us from our competitors in the workplace is immeasurable.
During my freshman year, I attended a meeting for the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). At this meeting, they asked for people who would be interested in participating in a steel bridge competition. I had never heard of the competition, but it sounded like a great way to get hands on experience. We were told that a steel bridge meeting would be scheduled soon. This meeting was never scheduled, and SMU did not field a team for the competition that year.
Fast forward a year later to the same beginning of the year ASCE meeting. At this meeting, elections were held for officer positions. I volunteered to captain the steel bridge team since I had been so excited for it during my freshman year. I won the election for captain since nobody else ran for it. I was only a sophomore and had never taken any sort classes that would qualify me to captain the team, but how hard could it be? This is where I learned what I had actually signed up for. The AISC/ASCE National Student Steel Bridge Competition has an approximately 20 year history behind it, and the rules for the competition resemble an engineering text book. Many schools that we competed against have had established steel bridge teams for just about as long that are led by graduate students. This was not the case at SMU; 2010-2011 would be our first year to field a team at the regional level. We were starting completely from scratch.
My initial team of about ten people whittled down to four at the end. Kaylyn McCoy, Jeff Robinson, Brett LeGrow and I were going to have to accomplish this task with the help and guidance of SMU ASCE Faculty Advisor Dr. El Shamy. Of these four people, three were sophomores at the time. Kaylyn, who was a senior during this competition, was our only team member with any sort of real life engineering experience. Our task was to build a 21 foot cantilever bridge made completely out of steel. This is where I saw the family-like atmosphere of SMU in action. Kaylyn took on the monstrous task of designing the bridge and, with the help of Dr. El Shamy, finished the design in late November. The competition took place on January 13-14 and finals week/Christmas break came right after finalizing the design, leaving very little time for construction. We ended up beginning construction on January 4 and completed it on January 13.
It is pretty ridiculous to fabricate a 21 foot bridge out of steel in nine days, but with the help and support of SMU faculty and staff such as Dr. El Shamy, machinist Andy Scott, and Julie Ellis the task did not seem insurmountable. They truly were the last three members of the SMU steel bridge team and their support throughout that incredibly stressful time validated every claim I had ever heard about the family like atmosphere at SMU. Knowing that the faculty and staff of SMU are behind you and will go the extra mile to help you is, in my opinion, one of the best feelings a student can experience.
At the competition, SMU finished top 10 in five out of seven categories judged at the competition: Lightness, Display, Stiffness, Efficiency, and Overall Cost. We walked away from the competition with our heads held high and with a whole new level of knowledge about how the steel bridge competition works. We are already finalizing the design for the bridge this year. SMU steel bridge has begun the tradition of competing in this competition and we will only get better.
Other than the steel bridge competition, I am currently the Webteam Administrator for the Lyle website. This means that I update the engineering website and handle the requests of various people within the Lyle School of Engineering. I worked as a camp assistant at SMU for both the Lyle Engineering Camp for Girls and TexPREP during the summer of 2010. In the summer of 2011, I was a camp instructor for both Robotics and Special Projects classes for TexPREP at Richland College. I also worked with the STEM Camp at Richland College. The Lyle School of Engineering has given me many great opportunities such as these, and I know that these experiences will be beneficial to me in the future.