Montana Tech students take 1st, 3rd at SAMPE North America Student Bridge Contest

How do you build a structurally sound bridge out of hemp? That’s one of the challenges Montana Technological University’s student chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE®) faced to rise above some of the world’s best engineering schools to take home first and third place prizes at the SAMPE® North America Student Bridge Contest.

The team traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to design, build, and test a miniature structural bridge created with various composite materials within a predetermined set of rules. The team took first place in the Natural Fiber Category and third in the Carbon Fiber I-Beam Category.
“The Montana Tech SAMPE® student chapter collaborates with several faculty members, as well as industry experts, to advance student knowledge in composite materials and additive manufacturing,” said club president Max Wohlgenant. “This year, SAMPE® was very pleased to have worked with two engineering senior design teams to develop a first-place earning hemp composite I-beam.”

Wohlgenant, a graduate student from Billings studying Materials Science, was joined by two teammates in Charlotte: Emma Carvo, a Mechanical Engineering senior from Idaho Falls, and Darren Ray, a Mechanical Engineering sophomore from Redding, California.

“The student bridge competition at the SAMPE® North American Annual Conference is a great experience for the students to meet industry professionals and as a showcase for their hard work,” said Dr. Richard Ladouceur, Assistant Engineering Professor, and faculty advisor. “The Montana Tech SAMPE student club did very well, placing in both categories they entered through the hard work of a multidiscipline group of Civil, Materials, and Mechanical Engineering students. It gives these students an opportunity to interact with large companies in the composites field like Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Boeing that they normally would not. The students even got interview offers on the spot because of the experiential nature of their work! They did a great job both in design and building of their beams and getting support from the school through ASMT or the community from 5518 Designs, Butte Brewing, and Headframe Spirits.”

The competition pitted the students against teams from the University of Washington, UCLA, the University of Southern California, the University of Tokyo, and many other esteemed institutions. This is the latest in a string of student club wins that continue solidifying Montana Tech’s reputation as a leading STEM institution.

To arrange an interview, please contact: Amanda Badovinac at or 406-496-4828.