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Future Engineers Build Under Pressure

When you were a kid, how many things did you build out of Popsicle sticks?  Maybe a pencil holder or a box, a teepee, or a sling shot?  What about a bridge that can withstand the added weight of hundreds of pounds?  Students from Cosby High School’s Engineering Design Course recently developed designs and built bridges that could hold up under pressure.

Watch the video to find out how Cosby High School engineering students approached the challenge.


Stephen Hackett, Instructor of Engineering, Drafting and Design at Cosby High School challenges his future engineers to solve difficult design challenges-

Because it gives them an opportunity to problem solve much like you would in an engineering firm.  There are many components to the project – there is the design, and the strength of the structure, and also the elements of innovation and aesthetics.  Communication is also important.  How do you as a member of your team, get your ideas across?   Each team must identify their resources and work within certain limitations.  The beauty of the Popsicle Bridge Building Competition each year is that you get immediate feedback on your structure.  You know right then why your bridge stood up under pressure or failed.  You know what you should do differently next time.”

Mike Howell, Chair of the Richmond Joint Engineers Council and President of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Richmond Branch, believes that this type of experience is perfect for students who ask the “when will I ever use this?” question in school. 

“This is a chance to see Engineering in action.  Students get to see how to apply what they are learning in school and see how their ideas work.  And we hope this will encourage them to pursue engineering as a career.”

The Popsicle Bridge Contesthappens each year in February at the Science Museum of Virginia and is open to middle school and high school students.  The program is sponsored by the Richmond Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  Many local engineers volunteer their time to make this program possible.  The Bridge contest is part of the Richmond Joint Engineers Council's annual "Engineering Career Day" that includes a variety of activities such as an Egg Drop Contest and opportunities to connect with local Engineering organizations, universities and businesses.

Click here for more information on the Popsicle Bridge Contest and rules.

If you want to see more exciting Engineering Designs - join us at Virginia Commonwealth University's Engineering Senior Design Expo on Friday, April 27th at the Science Museum of Virginia.

For more information on Engineering Programs and opportunities for students check out these links:

Discover the creative engineer in you at TryEngineering.org.

Sloan Career Cornerstone Center - an indepth online resource for exploring career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Computing, and Medicine.  A great resource for students, parents, and teachers.

Spark - an Engineering publication for 14-28 year olds produced by IEEE

Girls Go Engineering a pre-college program to inspire young female engineers.

Article by Debbie Mickle, Science Matters Project Manager