Fifth graders building bridges with popsicle sticks discovered that the stick bridge challenge rewards future engineers. The cfhallenge was to discover how to build the most efficient bridge; one that was functional and would bear weight.
At the 2014 Taos Stick Bridge Engineering Challenge, fifth grade bridge builders from Taos Charter School, Taos Academy and Taos Integrated School of the Arts demonstrated their skills in front of a crowd of supportive onlookers.
The event, which had 20 teams competing, was held in Taos Charter School’s Gary Embler Gym. The contest was simple. Which team could build the most efficient bridge to span an 18-inch gap using only Popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue? The catch, or design challenge, for the students came with the word “efficiency.” It was not a contest to see who could slap as many Popsicle sticks together as possible to create a burly mass of wood, but instead an opportunity for students to use their creativity as well as apply their math and engineering skills.
Aesthetics and utility were also discussed, as each bridge had to have a continuous roadway to let a vehicle a little larger than a three-inch cube pass.
Jones said students had the opportunity to learn about different principles as they worked on their bridges. The grand prize went to the team who had the highest efficiency score. The score was determined by comparing the weight of the bridge, known as dead weight, to how much weight the bridge could support before breaking, called the live load. This ratio means that the bridge that carries the most weight will not necessarily win, but rather the bridge which makes the best use of materials and design.