Popsicle stick bridges put under pressure

Kids’ engineering skills were put to the test at the annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Contest held at Dr. Kearney Middle School on Saturday.

The annual event, hosted by Peace River branch of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C., is designed to get students interested in engineering and geoscience, according to Chad Carlstrom, lead organizer.

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“We do this as an outreach program to open up to students the possibilities of engineering and geoscience as careers. It’s also just a way for them to explore science and get some hands on learning,” he said, in an interview with the Alaska Highway News.

After giving classes a lesson on how bridges support weight, APEG BC provides students from kindergarten to Grade 12 with all the materials they’ll need to construct their bridge free of charge.

Dylan Beswick, in Grade 7, won in the intermediate category for his extremely sturdy bridge. - Bronwyn Scott

Participants use nothing more than white glue and 100 popsicle sticks, and volunteers crush the entries one by one using bridge-breaking equipment.

“We start the process in January, we usually do an outreach where we go to classrooms within the school district for the teachers that want to be involved,” Carlstrom explained.

 “We’ll do a brief lecture on principles of what makes a strong bridge, talk briefly about engineering and geoscience as a career, and distribute the materials. The kids will construct their bridges in about a two-month period.”

Every year, in early March, APEG BC volunteers break the bridges using equipment that registers the weight applied to each bridge before it succumbs to the pressure.

Dylan Beswick, in Grade 7, won in the intermediate category for his bridge that supported 589 units. (While the bridge-breaking machine is supposed to measure the weight in pounds, it wasn’t working properly on Saturday and so different units were used to measure the pressure applied to each bridge.)

“I usually worked on it about two hours a day for two weeks,” he said.

He suspected his bridge this year would be a successful one, because he created it in similar fashion to a bridge he built in the past, which also supported a great deal of weight.

“I did have a design a few years ago that held just about the same amount, but these ones are in some different unit, so my bridge a few years ago actually held more,” he told the Alaska Highway News.

His winning design included a sturdy base, which he created using an interlacing pattern.

“This bottom is one that I normally use, it has one stick and then two sticks on each side half way down,” he explained.

In the junior category, Annika Quibell took home first place, and in the senior category Jessica Reese won.

While the contest is designed for students, there is also an open category for any teachers, parents or other adults who wish to build a bridge. Trevor Beswick won in the open category.


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