High schoolers apply science to model bridge challenge

Massey Secondary students assemble their model bridge: Cynthia Agbekodo and Dunya AssafMassey Secondary students assemble their model bridge: (L-R) Victoria Kotevski, Dunya Assaf and Hadeja Faraj.

Triangles are the sturdiest shape, says Dunya Assaf. That’s why she and her teammates chose it as the basis for their design of a model bridge.

“We’re trying to make it as sturdy and as long as possible,” said Assaf, a Grade 11 student at Vincent Massey Secondary School. “We made a base for the car to travel across and we’re incorporating triangles so it has a more stable surface.”

She and about 130 physics classmates came to the Centre for Engineering Innovation on Thursday to take part in a competition judged by representatives of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.

The students worked in teams to create designs and then execute them using craft sticks. The judges evaluated the bridges on three criteria: how closely the model resembled the design, how much weight it was able to bear, and how well it accommodated a model car driving across.

Mark Butler, director of communications with the bridge authority and one of the judges, called some of the designs “quite brilliant,” adding he was pleased to see young people take an interest in the engineering profession.

“A bridge is much more than just a function. There’s also a design and an aesthetic element as well,” he said.

“Engineering is an incredible field for the students to aspire to. The Gordie Howe International Bridge would not happen if it wasn’t for the hard work of engineers.”

Assaf’s teammate Eman Dannawey said she is considering pursuing mechanical engineering. The day’s events left her with a positive impression of engineering education.

“It’s fun to be able to do hands-on activities,” she said. “In class you’re always doing textbook learning, so it’s fun to actually put your learning into a hands-on experiment.”

View images from the day on the UWindsor Engineering Facebook page.