Lincoln-Way East students put physics lessons to work at bridge building contest

More than 120 students participate

   Lincoln-Way East High School students put their physics lessons to work last week (Dec. 8), building model bridges from basswood and seeing how many kilograms each one could hold before breaking.

   More than 120 students participated in the competition, designing and building miniature bridges from basswood that could hold significant weight.

   Some bridges exceeded their builder’s expectations; others fell short.

   “I wanted to get to at least 10 kilograms, said junior Brooke Becvar, whose bridge broke at the 9 kilogram mark. “But it was close enough.”

   “I was shooting for 7 (kilograms),” said classmate Jason Boyda. “I passed it with 10 kilograms.”

   Students learned to calculate efficiency by determining how much weight each bridge held and then dividing it by the weight of the bridge.

   First place went to Caitlin Duffner. Her bridge had a mass of  21.39 grams and held 24 kilograms. Second place went to Katie Kazmierczak. Her bridge had a mass of 23.9 grams and held 17 kilograms. Third place went to Meghan Seiler. Her bridge had a mass of 24.2 grams and held 17 kilograms.

   The students will now go on to represent Lincoln-Way East at the Regional Bridge Building Competition on Feb. 6 at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

    “Every year the talent demonstrated by our students is humbling,” said Lincoln-Way East teacher Todd Drumheller who organized this year’s bridge building competition at East.

   “Seeing all the work and creativity that goes into building a successful bridge is a tangible example of the hard work we witness every day,” he added.

    Students spent weeks researching bridge structures and styles, trying to determine which one would hold the most weight. Some opted for the traditional arch; others took their inspiration from the triangular bridge over LaGrange Road in Frankfort.

    Junior Steve Johnson went as far as researching the various glues that students could use, trying to determine which one would hold up the best but add the least weight.

    “Glue… that’s the downfall for a lot of people,” said Johnson, who has seen bridges snap prematurely – even before their builders could add weight to the scale or platform used at competition.

    Basic Elmer’s Glue, for example, just doesn’t hold up as well as something like Super Glue, said Johnson.

    Senior Stephen Dirks decided to add strength to his bridge by reinforcing the sides with multiple strips of basswood at different angles.

   Unfortunately, he didn’t apply the same logic to its base.

   “I didn’t do the middle properly,” he said in retrospect. “I should have added more (center supports) and put them closer together.”

   Classmate Brooke Becvar said she found the competition challenging but enjoyable.

   “It’s cool to see what everyone comes up with,” she said. “You get to use your imagination.”


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