Building structures of popsicle sticks and glue may seem like child’s play, but it took the bright minds of third-year civil engineering students to make them strong enough to stand up to extreme load testing at the fourth annual popsicle stick bridge building contest on Tuesday.
Students in Amr ElRagaby’s Finite Elements for Analysis and Design class vied for top marks in a contest that rewards creative and innovation designs that bear the most load relative to their own, alongside the most accurate predictions of their strength and performance.
Teams were tasked with designing and constructing a truss bridge of at least 10 cm wide and 75 cm long which was exposed to a concentrated load until it failed by breaking or bending.
“Failure is the ultimate goal, because only then can we know the ultimate limits of their strengths and flexibility,” says Dr. ElRagaby. “Once the students have built their bridge, they analyze it using specialized software tools and make some predictions about how they will perform. Then we verify it under our experimental conditions.”
Structures are placed in a specially-built machine that measures the force applied as the structures are crushed. ElRagaby says that once students have a chance to apply theories they have learned in the classroom to a real-world outcome, they learn something they will never forget.
“We did learn a lot a school, and we were able to apply that in our bridge,” says student Ali Taeb. “For example, based on our knowledge, we knew exactly where it might fail, and that helped us improve our structure.”
The best performing bridge— a triangular structure by Jordan Gangier, Chris Mullin, Griffin Cecilaws, Ali Taeb and Lucy Asemota, held more than 12.5 kg, with just 2.2 mm of deflection and weighing just 500 grams.
The best analysis presented was by Jonathan Baiano, Eric Walo, Joshua King, Joseph Fregin and Kory Snelgrove. And the most creative and innovative design was won by Zachary Bastien, Tara Benard-Rae, Zachary McPhee and Curtis Simpson.
The best performing bridge and most accurate analysis will receive $400 each, while winners of the most creative and innovative design will receive $500. Sponsors included Stantec Engineering, Canadian Deck and Joist Corporation, the Falkner family, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
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Third year civil engineering students (from left to right) Jordan Gangier, Chris Mullin, Griffin Cecilaws and Ali Taeb display their model bridge, a winner of the best performing bridge.