Photo Gallery | Photo Gallery: Gonzaga Prep students building bridges
You have 500 Popsicle sticks, 500 yards of sewing thread and glue. Now make a bridge! Sounds like something MacGyver would have to do, but every year the Gonzaga Prep Engineering Club tries their best to build a bridge to survive the weight of the world.
The project uses engineering principles in action. Students have been working on their bridges for about four to six weeks slaving over designs from traditional train trestles to arches.
The pieces finally fell together on Tuesday afternoon. During the school’s lunch break, students gathered to watch in awe, the destruction of hard work.
“The bridge is going to start to deflect, meaning this part will either crush or deform,” the club’s instructor George Petrina, said. “You’ll start to hear cracking and then catastrophic failure.”
Last year a bridge packed on 1,200 pounds before it tumbled to its doom. That winner competed again this year as a junior. Austin Lankford’s train trestle design was compacted together with globs of glue to build support.
Petrina said the weakest points of Lankford’s bridge were at the thinnest sections of the structure. That’s what he expected to break first. By putting weight on top of the bridge, the closest real world example is if a bridge stacked on top of another bridge were to collapse.
With the help of club members, weights were stacked onto the yoke. From 100 to 200 pounds, the bridge held. It sneaked past the 360 pound mark beating the second place bridge. Sounds of cracking were audible at the 400 pound marker. The excitable crowd leaned forward in anticipation for the final snap.
At 690 pounds, the weight finally crushed the center of the bridge bringing it down to the ground. A cloud of Popsicle dust sustained in mid air before finally settling. Lankford won the competition even though his bridge last year sustained more weight. It all depends on design.
Projects like this teach the main principles of engineering, but students in the club get a flavor of what real engineers do on a day to day basis. Petrina takes them to different businesses around town to see what engineers really do during their jobs and the projects they build from mechanical to civil engineering.
Extra Coverage: One bridge had a little humor glued to the structure. Find out how Charlie Sheen's turned upside down.