Clarkson students from Potsdam build world’s smallest engineered international bridge at border
Clarkson University’s Timber Bridge Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design (SPEED) Team pictured at the world’s smallest engineered international bridge. Submitted Photo.
POTSDAM – Clarkson University’s Timber Bridge Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design (SPEED) Team recently completed a bridge at the site of a border marker between the United States and Canada. The new construction is the world’s smallest engineered international bridge.
The marker, located on the 45th parallel and split directly in half by the U.S. and Canadian border, sits near a seasonal creek on the property of Atsiakta, a bed and breakfast in Akwesasne overlooking the St. Lawrence River.
The Community of Akwesasne existed before there were any borders or markers and for the Mohawk community, it does not affect moving from part of the community to another. After the American Revolution, the treaty line was proposed to be at the 45th parallel until it hit the St. Lawrence River. The line would then continue to divide the river and Great Lakes in half.
Both American and British officials assured the community of Akwesasne that the line would not affect them. In 1822 an official survey was conducted and markers placed to mark the US-Canada boundary. Many such markers are placed within Akwesasne.
For this project, members of Clarkson’s Timber Bridge SPEED Team dug holes for the two-by-four posts and trenches for the six-by-six bearing timber at each end of the bridge. The team then connected stringers to the bearing timbers before using joist hangers to connect diaphragms to the stringers and adding decking. The team finished the project with fence bars and handrails.
“The Akwesasne bridge build was a super cool project to be a part of. Going into it, I wasn't really sure what to expect, because I've never done any type of construction like this before,” said Abby Jeffers ‘27, an Environmental Engineering major and member of the Timber Bridge team. “What I found was that everybody was super willing to help at every step, and I learned a ton during both the design and the build. The day of the build, it was definitely hard work, but it was gratifying to see the finished bridge at the end of the day. The Akwesasne site itself was also such a cool place to be able to work, with the Canadian border right there, the obelisk, and the awesome view of the St. Lawrence River. Overall, the Akwesasne project was a great project to be a part of, and it's super gratifying to know that I helped create something that will be used for many years to come.”
Janine Rourke, owner of Atsiakta, was grateful for the work by the students and looks forward to the bridge being part of the experience at her bed and breakfast.
“We continue to be excited to share our blessings of being located on the majestic St. Lawrence River and to promote a positive experience for guests who visit our community by this show and tell of a historical landmark in terms of the 45th parallel impact on the lives of the people of Akwesasne,” Rourke said.
The Timber Bridge SPEED Team at Clarkson is a service-based organization and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year at Clarkson. The Timber Bridge team offers Clarkson students hands-on experience and problem solving skills in the field. Other recent project locations include Potsdam hiking trails and various Adirondack and local forest sites.