Building bridges and engineers of the future!

Bridge testing
 by Tamara Hellman

Earlier this week, dozens of Vancouver-area high school students built and tested model bridges at the Balsa Wood Bridge Competition— but down the road, they just might be working on the real deal.

We played host to the second annual event at the Southwest Region headquarters building Thursday, Nov. 6. Students came equipped with model bridges they crafted out of only two items – wood and glue! In all, 14, two-person teams from Evergreen, Heritage, Union and Mountain View high schools participated in the event. Each team did research on the type of bridge they wanted to build and then documented their findings in workbooks.

Broken bridge
Patrick Gallagher, a member of our bridge-design team, kicked off the event. He shared with the students how he became an engineer after participating in a similar contest when he was in high school. The structure he made for that competition inspired him to become a bridge engineer and 14 years later he wound up building the LeBree Bridge in Chehalis.

Both the bridge and workbook were judged as part of the competition. Bridge models in the competition were judged on structural integrity. Each model was tested by adding sand to buckets attached to the bridge to determine how much weight it could support before breaking. Some of the bridges practically exploded, while others simply broke at the joint supporting the weight. Engineers and our staff judged the competition.

So, who won? Teams from Union High School swept the structural bridge-design competition, winning the top three spots. A team from Evergreen High School won top prize for the workbook competition, followed by Union and Heritage in second and third, respectively.

Winning Bridge
Many of us use bridges daily, but seldom do we see the team behind the design. Exposing these students to engineering as a career path is a positive investment in our future transportation needs.

We are working with the Evergreen School District to host the event at our regional headquarters again next year.