February 17, 2020

Purdue ASCE to host Bridge Bust competition for high school students

bridge-bust This bridge, built by high school participants in the annual Purdue Bridge Bust Competition, is tested for how much weight it can hold before collapsing. The event is a Purdue outreach to students on career possibilities in the civil engineering field (Purdue University photo) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Area high school students will test their bridge design capabilities at Purdue University’s annual Bridge Bust Competition on Friday (Feb. 21).

The 41st annual Bridge Bust will feature 147 teams composed of 270 students from 19 schools in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky. It is hosted by Purdue’s American Society of Civil Engineers.

Purdue’s ASCE hosts Bridge Bust each year as an outreach to area high schools to teach students about civil engineering and career possibilities in the civil engineering field. Teams in the competition will build a balsa wood bridge designed to carry the most weight possible, using as few materials as possible. Awards are based on design as well as loading capacity.

The teams have 20 sticks of balsa wood and a bottle of glue to assemble their bridges. Most bridges are approximately 2 feet long and 8 inches high.

The teams are judged on loading efficiency, aesthetic qualities and structural concepts. Loading efficiency will be determined by pouring cups of sand into buckets hanging from the bridges. The bridge that can hold the most weight relative to its own weight wins the category.

Some students used analysis tools like weighted decision matrices, which are taught in freshman engineering classes, during last year’s competition, said MacKenzie Henson, coordinator for this year’s event.

The Bridge Bust competition will run 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in France A. Córdova Recreational Sports Center’s Gold and Black Gyms 1-3. Bridge breaking will begin at 9:30 a.m., and an awards ceremony will begin at 2:45 p.m.

The bridges will be judged by volunteers from Purdue’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering. Side events at the competition will include fun challenges such as penny boats and a catapult challenge. Student organizations and professors also will showcase research and other areas of civil engineering.

The event will be livestreamed on the Lyles School of Civil Engineering’s Facebook page.

Writer: Kelsey Schnieders Lefever, kschnied@purdue.edu

Source: Mackenzie Henson, henson3@purdue.edu

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