Terri-Jane Yuzda

University of Calgary

Making Bridges Out Of Popsicle Sticks

University of Calgary

The Confederation Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge. The London Bridge. Not only are these bridges among the most famous in the world, but also at one point each of them must have started out as models. And that is exactly what civil engineering students at the University of Calgary set out to do: create a model of a bridge.

But out of what material? The bridge must sustain hundreds and sometimes even thousands of kilograms of weight. So, perhaps the mostly likely and obvious choice would be 1060 mild steel. but such was not the case. The bridge must be less than four kilograms and as the rules from the Concordia Bridge Building Competition state, must be made simply of glue, dental floss and Popsicle sticks!

The legendary 18th annual Concordia Popsicle Bridge Building Competition was held on March 8.

The first competition was in 1984, then just a small contest within the departments of building between civil and environmental engineering students. That marked the first annual Concordia Bridge Building competition, held at Concordia University in Montreal.

The tradition continued and eventually expanded internationally, in 1991. This year, a total number of 40 teams, a total of 208 students, participated. This included five U.S. teams and one European team, from Fance.

The University of Calgary was the only Western university that participated in the competition, sending two teams to Montreal: The Little Bridge That Could team (Stan Wojciezczyk , Shamshir Jessa, Ryan Bakay, Marcus Laberda and Steven Kay) and the A-team (Charmaine Yu, Ken Lee, Japji Chahal, Denis Dejsus, Blair Schoefield, Conrad Binkmier, and Lorain Ruess).

Withstands 30 Kilograms
The bridges were judged based on three specific criteria: 10 per cent creativity, 25 per cent esthetics, and 65 per cent resistance factor. The Little Bridge That Could placed 15th as their bridge was able to withstand a 30-kilogram load and the A-team placed seventh, sustaining 800 kg. In addition, the A-Team was also awarded second place in the most innovative design, utilizing dental floss as a tension member. You'd be amazed to know that the University of Calgary holds the competition record of amount of sustained load for a bridge -- weighing less that 4 kg, but withstanding 5,030kg!

This was a tremendous learning opportunity for all the students involved. Mr. Wojciezczyk, for The Little Bridge That Could team, says this about the competition: "This year, all the students pushed the boundaries of innovation to try things that had never been done before. We wanted to send two bridges to the competition that were technically unique. We found the strengths and weaknesses in our design which will propel continuous improvement over the next coming years."

Congratulations to both teams for a job well done and a special thank you to all the sponsors.

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