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Engineers of the future compete in Fort Simpson
Thomas Simpson School teams dominate student bridge building competition

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 10, 2012

They don't rival the Deh Cho Bridge in size or cost, but three bridges built by six students at Thomas Simpson School have received winning marks.

NNSL photo/graphic

Rebekah Isaiah, left, and Daniel Gargan-LaCasse, right, received certificates for winning first place in the Grade 6 to 8 division of the NAPEG Model Bridge Competition. Their teacher Steve Nicoll, centre, holds the cheque for $200 that the team also won. - photo courtesy of Bob Jones

With their bridges, the students swept first, second and third place in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists' (NAPEG) Model Bridge Competition. The competition, which is in its 11th year, is open to students, the general public and professionals in both territories.

"It's mainly to create an interest in engineering," said Linda Golding, NAPEG's executive director.

Popsicle sticks and white glue

The bridges, which are built using Popsicle sticks and white glue, are tested on how much weight they can hold before breaking. Judging is also based on the weight of the structure, aesthetics and the application of engineering principles. Rebekah Isaiah and Daniel Gargan-LaCasse's bridge won first place in their division.

The team built a box beam roadbed with arch trusses. The bridge, which weighted 225 grams, held 32.3 kilograms.

"I'm pretty happy," said Isaiah about winning.

Isaiah said she and Gargan-LaCasse thought arch trusses would make their bridge stronger.

The team used a semi-circle drawn on a piece of paper as a template to build the arches.

To make the bridge stronger, the team designed their bridge so the trusses connected to both the top and the sides of their roadbed so any weight would be transferred to it. To make sure there were no spaces between their Popsicle sticks the team clamped and weighed down their structure with textbooks as it dried.

Working in pairs, the approximately 36 students in the Grade 7 and 8 science classes built bridges. The teams built test bridges first, broke them and discussed their flaws before building their final structures. The prototypes really paid off, said Steve Nicoll, who taught the class.

"When they went to build the second one, they were much better prepared," he said.

Top three bridges sent to Yellowknife

Only the top three bridges from the class were sent to the competition in Yellowknife. The rest were tested at the school.

William Alger and Robert Harold finished second place in the competition. Their I-beam roadbed with trusses weighted 322 grams and held 64.5 kilograms.

Harold, who also designed a bridge last year, said he was surprised by how much weight the bridge supported.

"It was fun working on it," he said.

Melissa Pascua-Matte and Mary Drake who came in third place are already making plans for next year's contest.

The team built a box beam roadbed with no upper structure. It weighted 311 grams and held 53.5 kilograms.

Drake said some of the lessons she learned included not using too much glue and making sure the Popsicle sticks align properly.

The whole competition was fun, she said.

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