Bridge Building Competition Gets Kids Involved in STEM

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bridge comp

Students from grades 4-12 participated in an annual bridge building competition at Sault College on Saturday.

This event, put on by Professional Engineers Ontario in partnership with Sault College, is an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience with STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Each student had the option to work alone or in pairs and received a balsa wood kit to construct any bridge of their choosing prior to the event. The only guidelines they were required to follow were that the bridge be 50 cm long and 4 cm wide.

During the event – which was split into three categories (Grades 4-5, Grades 6-8 and Grades 9-12) – these bridges were put to the test, being squeezed in a vice until they cracked under the pressure.

Marc Pilon, Project Manager for PEO said that engineers from the company do presentations at various schools prior to the event to give tips on bridge design and construction.

“(This helps them learn) about the theory and maybe why it might be smarter to build a bridge this way instead of that way.,” Pilon said. “Then you see some of the kids catch on pretty quick and a lot of the bridges look pretty good.”

A.J. Coccimiglio was the first place winner in the Grades 4-5 category. His suspension bridge withstood 62.2 kg of pressure.

He said he was happy to find out he’d won after all the hard work he and his dad put into planning and building the bridge.

“We looked at a couple of designs and then we chose one we liked but we also designed a bit of it ourselves,”  he said.

Pilon said he thinks this competition is an affordable way to get students involved in hands-on activities in the classroom.

“I know that a lot of the schools have limited funding for field trips and stuff like that, so this is a fairly low-cost event (each kit was $2 plus the cost of glue and a knife) for the schools to do and it’s hands-on and in class so they don’t have to go anywhere (to do it),” he said.

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