Student Engineering Competition

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Hosts Student Engineering Competition in Honor of Gateway Arch’s 52nd Anniversary


Local students tasked with updating vital components of the Gateway Arch’s tram system

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is celebrating the 52nd anniversary of the completion of the Gateway Arch with an inaugural engineering contest for college students.

JNEM invited three local college engineering schools-Washington University in St. Louis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Southwestern Illinois College-to participate in the competition. Students have been asked to solve a real-world engineering problem: how to modernize the trams’ electrical and mechanical systems.

“The Arch’s tram system is one of the most unique methods of transportation in the world,” says Frank Mares, Deputy Superintendent, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. “No other elevator system is like it, and there is no precedent when it comes to improving it. We hope this competition inspires our local college students to think outside the box, and use their engineering knowledge and their imagination to find a workable solution. We are eager to see their approach as they demonstrate their multifaceted ways of thinking and showcase their problem-solving skills.”

Students recently took a behind-the-scenes tour of the popular Journey to the Top tram ride to research the inner workings of the current system. The Park Service also provided students with photos and drawings of the project. Each school’s team will submit their proposal by October 20. JNEM’s tram mechanics staff will review the proposals and determine the winner.

Students will present their proposals at a special banquet on the Arch’s 52nd anniversary of its completion, Saturday, October 28. The winner will be announced and presented the Dick Bowser Trophy, named after the designer of the Arch’s tram system and made from recycled tram parts. The Gateway Arch’s builders will also be in attendance and recognized at the banquet, in celebration of the 52nd anniversary of the Arch’s completion.

If the winning design indeed works, the Arch tram mechanical staff intend to implement it.

WHAT: Gateway Arch Engineering Competition Awards Banquet
WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 28; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Award will be given out closer to end of the event.)
WHERE: Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch; 2 South Fourth Street, St. Louis, MO 63102
INTERVIEW OPPORTUNITIES: Student competitors, faculty coaches, Gateway Arch builders
MEDIA NOTE: The banquet is a private event and not open to the public. Media are invited to attend. Please contact Park Ranger Tony Gilpin at 618-792-6145 to alert him of your attendance.