Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Bridge Building Contest in Chicago

My son and his friend needed a ride to Chicago for the bridge building contest. Four entries from each high school in the surrounding area went.
The kids build bridges from kits of balsa wood supplied by the contest organizers. There were specifications regarding length of span and size and such. The bridges were then stressed by loading on weights until they failed at a contest at the high school. The four kids whose bridge load to bridge weight was highest went on to this regional event. Obviously, they had to rebuild the bridge for the regional event, as their original was destroyed, so they could apply what they learned from other bridges and from how theirs failed to make a better one. Usually that means beefing up the places your bridge failed and paring away weight from areas that held strong to make your bridge both stronger and lighter. The variety of entries was amazing, but the geometry gave them all an inherent beauty. It was fun to watch them be loaded and startling to hear them fail and just a great time to hear all those kids excited about a physics project. Smart kids can be so much fun and I had a great time talking to my son and his interesting and smart friend and to some of the other kids there. The camera is a great way to get to talk to someone about what interests them. I'd ask if I could take their picture because they were the first one to break their bridge in the contest, or because their bridge was especially pretty or some other little unique thing and they always said sure and always told me more and answered my questions. I had more fun than I thought I would and it reinforced my views that this generation of kids is pretty darn amazing.

Here is the page where you can click on links for the data on the bridges such as their weights and the load at which they failed.

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