Students pose with their popsicle stick bridgeThe winners of last year’s popsicle sticks bridge competition—Josh Mailloux, Ismaeel Babur, Eric Sylvestre and Evan Reidel—show off their arched design, which held more than 4800 newtons (almost 1,100 pounds) while weighing just over 1100 grams.

Model competition to test engineering students’ bridge-building skills

Learning by practice is always the best, says civil engineering professor Amr ElRagaby. That’s what makes a contest to design and build a model bridge from popsicle sticks a valuable experience for his students.

“They can understand the principles, but when they have a chance to apply the theories, they learn something they will never forget,” he says.

Students of his third-year class in Finite Element for Analysis and Design will test the load-bearing capacity of their structures Wednesday, and invite the campus community to watch. The competition measures their skills in analyzing, designing and constructing truss bridges built only with craft sticks, toothpicks, and glue. Each bridge will measure 750 mm and will be subjected to a load test until it collapses.

“Failure is the ultimate goal, because only then can we know the ultimate limits of their strengths and flexibility,” says Dr. ElRagaby.

The competition offers cash prizes in three categories:

  • highest ratio of load borne to structure mass and deformation;
  • most accurate prediction of maximum load; and
  • most creative and innovative design.

The testing is open for public viewing and begins at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 31, in the Industrial Courtyard, Centre for Engineering Innovation.