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Top grad student studies ice load on bridges

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SDSU bridge study
SDSU bridge study
 

 

BROOKINGS, SD (KELO-AM) Drivers are only concerned if there is ice on the bridge, but an SDSU graduate student has been awarded for her work on studying ice under the bridge.Brittney Ahrenstorff, a graduate student in the civil and environmental engineering program, was named the Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year for 2013 for the Mountain-Plains Consortium, a university transportation center formed by eight universities stretching from Utah to North Dakota.She and winners from other regions received their honors at a banquet in Washington, D.C., Jan. 11.Ahrenstorff's research measures and evaluates ice loads on bridge piers in South Dakota. The two-year study's main objective is to calibrate the ice load equations given in bridge design codes and develop realistic estimates of the loads imposed by the ice formation found in South Dakota rivers.The study is co-sponsored by the Mountain-Plains Consortium at SDSU and the South Dakota Department of Transportation.

Ice hugs a bridge pier and an attached measuring device in the James River east of Huron. The device is used in a project to calculate ice load. The research is being conducted by civil engineering graduate student Brittney Ahrenstorff through the Mountain-Plains Consortium at SDSU.

While data from this winter is still being collected, Ahrenstorff, of Lake Park, Iowa, is writing her thesis on information from the first winter. The 2012 SDSU undergrad expects to complete her master’s degree in May and then she plans to begin work as a design engineer with Kiewit Engineering Company in Omaha, Neb.Data is being collected from the I-29 southbound bridge over the Big Sioux River south of Brookings and the bridge over the James River on U.S. 14 east of Huron. Design ‘more than adequate’“Based on our first-year collection we have seen that the design practices are more than adequate.” In fact, the state may be “overdesigning their bridges,” Ahrenstorff said. The research includes measurements of ice thickness and taking ice core samples that are crushed to measure the ice’s strength.But the key component being measured is the impact load that “ice cakes” deliver to the bridge piers, the 2007 Harris-Lake Park High School grad said.To measure that, Ahrenstorff and her faculty supervisors designed a system in which a 12-inch hollow pipe was fastened to a bridge pier with steel plates. The plates also hold in place 12 string gauges, which record the strain being applied from the ice. That can be mathematically converted to force, she said.Because there is not an established method for this type of testing, Ahrenstorff said she and her faculty mentors devised this one based on feasibility, accuracy, ease of installation and cost.First award for SDSU in five yearsNadim Wehbe, interim head of the SDSU Civil and Environment Engineering Department and director of the Mountain-Plains Consortium program at SDSU, calls Ahrenstorff “an individual of great intellect, solid work ethics, high aptitude and genuine personality.” She has a 4.0 GPA as a graduate student.“Her research work will undoubtedly result in significant advancement in the field of bridge engineering,” Wehbe said.As the Mountain-Plains Consortium Student of the Year, Ahrenstorff received $1,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., to attend with a guest the banquet of the Council of University Transportation Centers. While in D.C., she visited two Smithsonian Museums and went on a walking tour of the national monuments.Ahrenstorff is the first SDSU student to receive the award since Chad Stripling was honored at the 2009 ceremony.

 

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