The fundamentals of engineering took the spotlight at Ramsey High School in New Jersey earlier this month during a daylong bridge building contest that was inspired by the New NY Bridge project.
Eight teams of high school students used their knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM academics, to create their own miniature cable-stayed bridges – the same kind of structure as the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
In just a few hours, the students designed and created their own bridges out of balsa wood, strings, pins and glue. The creations were judged on their overall ingenuity, carrying capacity and engineering accuracy. Students were asked to predict the precise amount of weight their structure could support and each bridge was tested until it failed. Northern Highlands Regional was the winning team, successfully predicting that their bridge could hold no more than 15 pounds.
Craig Cuppernell, main span area manager for Tappan Zee Constructors, and Kevin Brundage, a project controls engineer for the Thruway Authority, were among the judges and participated in the physical testing of the spans.
“It was encouraging to see these young engineers apply their knowledge and create a functional cable-stayed structure in a short amount of time,” Cuppernell said. “I’m sure their teachers are very proud of the progress they’ve made.”
Brundage noted that the students were not aware of the parameters until the day of the challenge.
“Critical thinking on the spot is an extremely valuable skill and it wasn’t until my second or third year of college that I was challenged in that kind of way,” Brundage said. “STEM isn’t just about doing technical work, but being able to communicate that information in a clear and intelligent way. I was impressed these students are developing not only critical thinking in high school but communication skills.”
Dan Marcy, a member of the New NY Bridge project’s Educational Outreach team, explained to the students that the construction of the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge inspired the cable-stay challenge.
Jim Manzo, a technology education teacher in Ramsey, told NorthJersey.com it was fun to watch the “budding engineers compete.”