About the Blog

Saul Chaplin started #SeismicSaturday in 2020 as a blog on innovative, historic, or just downright cool structures. He learned, while writing, that bridges are super interesting. They arise out a simple need: to get from point A to point B without getting wet. From that simple problem statement sprouts infinite challenges, technicalities, and opportunities for creativity. What if the river valley is 1200 ft deep, in a seismically active area, subjected to high temperature extremes which cause problematic expansion and contraction of members, exposed to highly corrosive marine air? What if the ground is a swamp, or alternately, the “valley” is two shear cliff edges? What if the client desires an interesting cable-stayed bridge with a curved deck, or a smooth and aesthetic arched bridge, or a rustic wooden truss, or an octagonal girder bridge? The challenges – and thus the possibilities – are endless.

You are invited to explore the bridges and other structures on the blog. Please leave a comment with a question, comment, or link to another cool structure!

About the Author

Saul Chaplin is a Structural Engineering student at UC San Diego. He has experience working in structural design, and has designed elevated porches and seismic retrofits. He has loved working in construction and has built formwork, laid rebar, framed wooden walls, and post-tensioned cables.

Saul is a volunteer teacher for a club called Seismic Outreach at UCSD, where he teaches classes of 20+ elementary and middle schoolers about earthquakes and basic earthquake engineering – including cable bracing, diagonal bracing, and shear walls. The students spend weeks building mini-skyscrapers out of K’NEX blocks using the principles they learn, and then test their structures on a shake table. Saul’s favorite part of the club is seeing how happily engaged students are as they design and build their K’NEX skyscrapers, and seeing them learn from the structural failures and success when they shake their models back and forth.

Saul is on the UCSD Steel Bridge Team (pictured below), where he worked with teammates to design a 21 ft steel truss bridge to withstand a loading of 2600 lb with just .478 inches of deflection. The group used Structural Analysis software, Finite Element Analysis, and hand calculations to insure sufficient strength and optimize for low weight and high stiffness. The group loved fabricating the bridge using MIG welding, water jetting, cutters, grinders, drill press, and other equipment. Saul loves performing tests on the bridge, including full-scale load test, destructive tensile tests of connection prototypes, and modal analysis vibration testing with home-made accelerometers linked to Arduino microcontrollers. What is more fun than breaking, bending, and shaking stuff? (and, of course, carefully measuring how it breaks, bends, and vibrates)

Saul also likes baking (post on “The Incredible Strength of German Chocolate Cake” coming soon), singing, hiking, and sharing time with friends and family. He loves to explore, and especially to explore structures. You can find him climbing down through brambles into canyons to reach a foundation, peering over railings to spot frayed cables, and looking for subtle differences between new retrofitting bolted plates and riveted connections of the past.

The 2022 UC San Diego Steel Bridge Team



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