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Men’s Soccer’s Clarke Competes in Steel Bridge Nationals

Jonathon Clarke (pictured third from the left) and the Steel Bridge team accepts its first-place award for lightness at the Student Steel Bridge Competition nationals.
Jonathon Clarke (pictured third from the left) and the Steel Bridge team accepts its first-place award for lightness at the Student Steel Bridge Competition nationals.

CHICAGO, Ill. – The 2017 Illinois Tech men's soccer season was one built on the backing of a strong defense, allowing just 1.07 goals per game en route to a 14 wins and a trip to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Championships.

This summer, a key member of the Scarlet Hawks' stout defense has spent time building something of his own. As a member of Illinois Tech's Steel Bridge Team, Jonathon Clarke traveled to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign over Memorial Day weekend to compete in the 2018 National Student Steel Bridge Competition.

"Each team is given a real-world engineering issue where they must design, fabricate, and erect a scale model steel bridge" said Clarke. "Each year, the scenario slightly differs for us to adapt new ways to create the bridge. The teams are scored on display, construction economy, structural efficiency and overall performance."

Over 230 teams competed in the competition world-wide, with 42 advancing to nationals. After not qualifying a year ago, Clarke's team earned the nationals bid by placing first overall out of 19 schools at the Great Lakes Student Conference (GLSC) by a wide margin. Tech followed it up over the holiday weekend by finishing 27th overall, which included first in the lightness category. The national round included not only teams from across the country, but from schools in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and China as well.

Much like Clarke has helped the Illinois Tech soccer team build into one of the top teams in the region, Illinois Tech's Steel Bridge team has also improved greatly using his contributions.

"Their bridge was highly optimized for constructability, weight, and structural behavior," said national competition judge Oana Toma. "Illinois Tech's bridge was the lightest by 20 pounds and successfully carried 2,500 pounds with minimal deflection."

"I've participated in steel bridge for nine years as both a competition and a judge, and it's been great to see how each team steps up to the ever-raising bar of the competition," Toma continued. "Illinois Tech has grown immensely from a team just trying to find their way to becoming one of the most competitive in the nation."

Clarke seems poised to take on a large leadership role with the Steel Bridge team next year as the team's captain. He knows this year's trip to nationals, along with what lies ahead, is invaluable to his career as an engineer.

"I believe this whole experience helps me with my future," said Clarke. "It gives me a taste of what I can expect to be doing in the real world with creating structures and understanding the principles that go with them."

The national competition, which was sponsored by both the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), was won by Lafayette College. Full results and additional information on the competition can be found here.