Brace Under Pressure: High-School Students Test Their Bridge-Building Skills at UC

The University of Cincinnati College of Engineering’s Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering gets ready for National Engineers Week with the third annual bridge-building competition for area high-school students on Friday, Feb. 18, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Tangeman University Center’s Great Hall.

“Our intention is that this ‘hands-on’ experience would be made available to enhance students’ learning experiences in the application of basic mechanics principles,” says Anant Kukreti, chair of UC’s civil and environmental engineering department. “We look forward to having students participate in our competition.”

The rules for the event were adapted from the Science Olympiad, a national organization whose mission is “To promote and improve student interest in science and to improve the quality of k-12 science education throughout the nation.” The student teams consist of one to three high-school students. No student may be on more than one team and each team must be sponsored by a high-school teacher.

Each bridge must be a single structure constructed of wood bonded by glue. The entire bridge, including the road surface, must be constructed of pieces of wood no larger than ¼" high and ¼" wide. The bridges have to weigh less than 0.68kg (about 1½ pounds). The road surface must allow the free passage of a rolling Matchbox™ or Hot Wheels™ model car along its entire length.

Bridges are registered upon the students’ arrival and impounded on registration. After the testing, the bridges are returned to the students. First, the bridge is subjected to a rolling test. The bridge is inclined by placing a 50mm-high block under one end of the bridge. The model car is placed on the elevated end of the road surface and allowed to roll down its length and exit the bridge. If the car gets stuck, the students may restart from that point. Two restarts are allowed. There is no score for the rolling test. Failure of this test disqualifies the bridge.

Team from 2004 competition.

Team from 2004 competition.

Second, the bridge’s strength and stiffness are tested, based on its load-bearing abilities. Awards will be given in each of three categories:

  • Best Strength 
  • Best Stiffness
  • Best Overall


Team from 2004 competition.

Team from 2004 competition.

“Participating in this competition will provide an opportunity for the area high-school students to learn more what engineers do, and what an open-ended engineering design entails,” says Kukreti. The students also get the opportunity to visit UC’s College of Engineering teaching and research laboratory facilities. Lunch is provided.

For more information, contact Dr. Michael Baseheart, (513) 556-3700 or by e-mail at Mike.Baseheart@UC.Edu.

More about the competition

Photos of last year's event

Schedule of 2005 activities

Results of 2005 competition


Local High School Bridge-Building Competition At UC Can Lead To Future Design Of Steel Bridges And Concrete Canoes As College Students — A message from Tony Mette, President, UC Student Chapter American Society of Civil Engineers

“On behalf of the students in Civil Engineering at the University of Cincinnati, we would like to wish all high school students participating in the 2005 Bridge-Building competition at UC an educational and enjoyable experience. Through your participation in the bridge competition, you will learn basic engineering concepts which are used in ‘real world’ bridge design.
Although you will be designing a wood bridge, the students in Civil Engineering at UC will be designing a steel bridge spanning 20 feet. Besides participating in the Steel-Bridge competition, we will also be designing and racing a concrete canoe. These two competitions are sponsored by the national organization of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE).”

“This year the students at UC are fortunate to host the ASCE Ohio Valley Regional Conference for the Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge Competition on April 2, 2005. At our conference we compete against twelve regional universities to determine which school advances to the national competition held each summer. We are hoping that all you students will consider attending the events in April 2005.”

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