From The University of Miami (FL) (US) : “Civil engineer helps build a better bridge”

From The University of Miami (FL) (US)

Robert C. Jones Jr.

Christian C. Steputat, a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Engineering, has worked on design and construction projects all over the world, including the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas, and the guitar-shaped Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino here in Hollywood.

As part of his doctoral research Christian C. Steputat documented the use of special rebars used in the construction of the Ibis Bridge in Lighthouse Point. Photo courtesy Christian C. Steputat.

Construction engineers working on the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas faced a conundrum: how to prevent the 40-billion candlepower sky beam atop the pyramid-shaped hotel from incinerating the property.

To solve the problem, they borrowed a page from aerospace history, employing the same type of multilayer insulation used by NASA to cover the exterior of the Apollo 11 command module that carried the first men to walk on the moon.

“It looked a lot like crinkled tin foil, but the insulation worked flawlessly,” said Christian C. Steputat, one of the structural specialty spaceframe engineers who worked on the Luxor when it was built in the early 1990s.

A lot has changed since then. The Luxor is no longer the tallest hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, and Steputat is now a doctoral student in the University of Miami College of Engineering.

But what hasn’t changed is Steputat’s love of civil engineering.

From a high-rise building in Beijing to a 540-foot-tall replica of the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas to the guitar-shaped Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Florida, Steputat has worked as a civil engineer on just about every kind of design and construction project imaginable. He was part of a team that built an innovative seawall in Flagler Beach that protects sand dunes, adjacent properties, and a segment of State Road A1A from storm surge.

But it is a project in the small Broward County suburb of Lighthouse Point that is arguably the most important task on which he has worked. While the Ibis Bridge may not be as intriguing to look at as the Luxor, the 128-foot-long span that traverses the Ibis Waterway is helping to fulfill President Joe Biden’s ambitious goal of ramping up the nation’s infrastructure, with fixing ailing roadways and overpasses at the top of the list.

Under the president’s American Jobs Plan, 20,000 miles of highways, roads, and main streets will be upgraded; 10 of the most economically significant bridges in the U.S. in need of reconstruction will be mended; and 10,000 smaller bridges, like the Ibis Bridge, will be repaired.

As part of his doctoral research, Steputat documented the use of, and the partial prestressing process applied to, the special rebars used in the Ibis Bridge’s construction. Those rebars are made of glass fiber reinforced polymers (GFRP), which can be twice as strong as steel, yet four times as light.

“In older bridges made with steel rebars, boats, jet skis, and other watercraft that travel under them generate sea spray, which can eventually cause rust staining and corrosion,” Steputat explained. But GFRP rebars do not corrode. “You can basically stick them in saltwater, and they’ll never rust,” he said.

And that’s good news for the city of Lighthouse Point. The $2.4 million Ibis Bridge, which replaces an original span built in 1950, is expected to last a century, Steputat said.

Steputat also installed 10 wireless sensors in the bridge’s core and deck to monitor the strength, temperature, and humidity of the concrete, accessing the data via his smartphone. “We want to know how the concrete in the middle is behaving compared to the outer surfaces that get a lot of air circulation and cool the quickest,” he said.

Built by Miami-based Anzac Contractors through a Florida Department of Transportation initiative, the Ibis Bridge can help educate contractors still reluctant to use GFRP in their construction projects, Steputat believes.

“Most bridges are still built with the old-fashioned steel rebars,” he said. “Using GFRP technology can decrease maintenance costs, and it comes with longer service life. It’s starting to gain a foothold. Not as quickly as we’d like, so we have an obligation to educate not just the public but the construction industry at large.”

Having worked on design and construction projects on five continents, Steputat is passionate about educating others about the benefits of GFRP. With a mother who is an architect and a father who is an engineer, he grew up on construction sites, often climbing the scaffolding when his parents weren’t looking.

“I look at our planet in terms of sustainability and resilience,” said Steputat, a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (US). “What can we do to make everything better and optimize our systems by using and reusing our available resources? That’s the future of our industry.”

See the full article here.


Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

Stem Education Coalition

The University of Miami (US) is a private research university in Coral Gables, Florida. As of 2020, the university enrolled approximately 18,000 students in 12 separate colleges and schools, including the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine in Miami’s Health District, a law school on the main campus, and the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science focused on the study of oceanography and atmospheric sciences on Virginia Key, with research facilities at the Richmond Facility in southern Miami-Dade County.

The university offers 132 undergraduate, 148 master’s, and 67 doctoral degree programs, of which 63 are research/scholarship and 4 are professional areas of study. Over the years, the university’s students have represented all 50 states and close to 150 foreign countries. With more than 16,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff, UM is a top 10 employer in Miami-Dade County. The University of Miami’s main campus in Coral Gables has 239 acres and over 5.7 million square feet of buildings.

The University of Miami is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. The University of Miami research expenditure in FY 2019 was $358.9 million. The University of Miami offers a large library system with over 3.9 million volumes and exceptional holdings in Cuban heritage and music.

The University of Miami also offers a wide range of student activities, including fraternities and sororities, and hundreds of student organizations. The Miami Hurricane, the student newspaper, and WVUM, the student-run radio station, have won multiple collegiate awards. The University of Miami’s intercollegiate athletic teams, collectively known as the Miami Hurricanes, compete in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The University of Miami’s football team has won five national championships since 1983 and its baseball team has won four national championships since 1982.


UM is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. In fiscal year 2016, The University of Miami received $195 million in federal research funding, including $131.3 million from the Department of Health and Human Services (US) and $14.1 million from the National Science Foundation (US). Of the $8.2 billion appropriated by Congress in 2009 as a part of the stimulus bill for research priorities of the National Institutes of Health, the Miller School received $40.5 million. In addition to research conducted in the individual academic schools and departments, Miami has the following university-wide research centers:

The Center for Computational Science
The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS)
Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy
The Miami European Union Center: This group is a consortium with Florida International University (FIU) established in fall 2001 with a grant from the European Commission through its delegation in Washington, D.C., intended to research economic, social, and political issues of interest to the European Union.
The Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies
John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics – studies possible causes of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration.
Center on Research and Education for Aging and Technology Enhancement (CREATE)
Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research

The Miller School of Medicine receives more than $200 million per year in external grants and contracts to fund 1,500 ongoing projects. The medical campus includes more than 500,000 sq ft (46,000 m^2) of research space and the The University of Miami Life Science Park, which has an additional 2,000,000 sq ft (190,000 m^2) of space adjacent to the medical campus.The University of Miami’s Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute seeks to understand the biology of stem cells and translate basic research into new regenerative therapies.

As of 2008, the Rosenstiel School receives $50 million in annual external research funding. Their laboratories include a salt-water wave tank, a five-tank Conditioning and Spawning System, multi-tank Aplysia Culture Laboratory, Controlled Corals Climate Tanks, and DNA analysis equipment. The campus also houses an invertebrate museum with 400,000 specimens and operates the Bimini Biological Field Station, an array of oceanographic high-frequency radar along the US east coast, and the Bermuda aerosol observatory. The University of Miami also owns the Little Salt Spring, a site on the National Register of Historic Places, in North Port, Florida, where RSMAS performs archaeological and paleontological research.

The University of Miami built a brain imaging annex to the James M. Cox Jr. Science Center within the College of Arts and Sciences. The building includes a human functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) laboratory, where scientists, clinicians, and engineers can study fundamental aspects of brain function. Construction of the lab was funded in part by a $14.8 million in stimulus money grant from the National Institutes of Health (US).

In 2016 the university received $161 million in science and engineering funding from the U.S. federal government, the largest Hispanic-serving recipient and 56th overall. $117 million of the funding was through the Department of Health and Human Services and was used largely for the medical campus.

The University of Miami maintains one of the largest centralized academic cyber infrastructures in the country with numerous assets. The Center for Computational Science High Performance Computing group has been in continuous operation since 2007. Over that time the core has grown from a zero HPC cyberinfrastructure to a regional high-performance computing environment that currently supports more than 1,200 users, 220 TFlops of computational power, and more than 3 Petabytes of disk storage.