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* News Release *
 
Monday, May 22, 2006
For Immediate Release

SECOND ANNUAL BRIDGE COMPETITION
BCEO and Hamilton City Schools

The Butler County Engineer's Office held its second annual bridge building competition in conjunction with the Hamilton City Schools Gifted Program last Friday morning. Approximately 70 students participated as BCEO engineers subjected each student's toothpick bridge to a load stress test.

"Increasing amounts of weight are applied to each bridge until it breaks," said County Engineer Greg Wilkens. "The bridge able to withstand the most weight wins. But more importantly, these students learn a little something about engineering and the physics of bridge design. Our goal is to expose them to engineering principles in a real life situation and hopefully inspire them to pursue careers in the field of engineering."

Two months ago, BCEO engineers went into the classrooms and spoke to students in the gifted program about bridge engineering. At that time the students were given certain parameters for designing and building their toothpick bridges. Materials were also provided -- 1,000 toothpicks each and lots of glue.

The Winners

Winner Adam Pankey from Buchanan Elementary School with his
demolished bridge.
This year's winning bridge was built by Adam Pankey from Buchanan Elementary School and withstood up to 53 pounds point loaded. Point loading refers to applying all the weight to a single spot on a bridge versus that weight being spread evenly across the entire structure. Point loading is usually applied to the spot that engineers deem the most critical or vulnerable on a bridge -- typically mid-span.

Second place went to Elizabeth Ott of Lincoln Elementary whose bridge broke at 45.5 pounds. The third place bridge withstood 31 pounds of pressure and was constructed by Jaime Murray from Cleveland Elementary School.

"We're proud of all the kids and hope they had fun," said Engineering Manager Kar Singh, who helped organize the event. "As we pointed out last year, it's amazing that a toothpick weighs less than one ounce and that the total weight of each bridge was less than a pound, yet many of these bridges were able to withstand 20 pounds or more. This provides a good lesson in how we incorporate basic laws of physics when designing real structures."

Students were also given a tour of the Engineer's Office and treated to lunch. Special t-shirts commemorating the event were also given to the students.

Mary Ann Richter, Gifted Intervention Specialist with the Hamilton City Schools Gifted Program said "The Butler County Engineers Office and the Hamilton City School District Gifted Education Department joined in a community effort to provide an opportunity for students to learn and understand the field of engineering, especially the science of bridge building. This was a great opportunity for students to explore, to learn, to receive professional instruction from real engineers in the field, and to apply what they learned to a real bridge building activity that had a purpose. Students found this hands-on learning experience to be very challenging and they had to persevere through frustration to produce a successful bridge. The engineers were great role models for the students, showing professionalism at all times coupled with a patient, caring manner. This was a great opportunity for these students to experience working like a real engineer."

Here are some comments from students who participated:

  • "Thank you for the field trip to your office....It's pretty cool how toothpicks can hold 53 pounds."
  • "Thank you for giving us the tour around the Butler County engineer's Office and for providing us with the supplies we needed to build our bridges....I also liked how you weighed the bridges patiently and answered our questions."
  • "I like the way that you guys were so patient....and answered every question that we kids asked. I really liked to learn about the different kinds of bridges. I also really liked participating in the bridge contest. It was really fun."
  • "It was cool seeing something I made out of toothpicks hold 9.5 pounds."
  • "The contest was both fun and challenging."
  • "Thank you for the day that you spent with us....The engineers explained everything very clearly and I understood mostly everything they said."
Click on images to enlarge.
Students look on as BCEO engineer's load test bridges.
Students have their picture taken with their bridges.
That's a pretty fancy bridge. .........
Here's another bridge...
...and another...
...and another.
A bridge close-up...
...and another...
...and another...
...and another....
...and another...
...and another.
BCEO Design Engineer Dave Quimby sets up point-loading on this bridge.
A close-up of the point-loading process. ........................................
A bucket is suspended and weights are gradually added. .......
A student with his bridge. ............. ......................................
Same student after his bridge was "demolished" by BCEO engineers.
Another student with her "demolished" bridge. ...................
# # #

For more information contact:

Chris Petrocy, BCEO Public Information Supervisor
Greg Wilkens, P.E., P.S., Butler County Engineer
Phone 513.867.5744 • Fax 513.867.5849


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