'Geers building bridges with London
By Donna MacMullin
Students at Western and the City of London are building a bridge and everyone is hoping it will lead to bigger and brighter things.
As part of their civil engineering design course, fourth-year students are currently involved in a project to compose preliminary designs for a bridge to be built as a permanent structure over the Thames River in Gibbons Park.
"It's the first time a student-design project has a very good chance of being built," said Mike Bartlett, a professor in Western's civil engineering department. "It's very exciting."
Bartlett said there are 36 students involved in the project, along with internal advisors in the university and external engineering advisors to help with practical components and offer advice.
The project emerged from a fortunate meeting with city engineers and Alan Davenport, director of the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel Laboratory at Western, Bartlett said. "The City wanted some ideas for preliminary designs and this project would give them a range of alternatives."
Davenport, who is also acting as a faculty advisor for the students, said he is enthusiastic about the project as it gives students an opportunity to show off their skills. "It is our hope that we can explore new and innovative bridge designs which are both economical and aesthetically-pleasing," he said.
Bob Petrie, head of the transportation division for the City of London, said the project is a great opportunity to get various plans out on the table for the City.
The City is expected to retain a professional engineer to do design drawings and some of the detail work, Petrie said. "But there will only be minor changes done the final structure will look very similar to the one chosen from a student team," he added. Construction is tentatively slated for the summer of 1998.
"There is a very good chance that a student will come back to London in a couple of years and see their design as an actual permanent structure," Bartlett said.
Student designs will be presented and judged by a review committee panel of experts in an competition on April 1. "The City has allocated $3,750 in prize money for the best designs," Petrie said. "The committee will then present a report to council and the design will be subject to budget approval before it is built."
Davenport said he is optimistic the students will produce creative ideas to enhance the beauty of London's river valley. "Bridges tend to be a feature of any city with a river," he said. "Our hope and expectation is that if this is successful we can continue to work with the City on other projects."