High School Students Learn Toothpick Engineering

Posted at: 02/26/2013 4:21 PM
Updated at: 02/26/2013 10:51 PM
By: Laurie Stribling

Students from 17 high schools gathered at the University of Minnesota, Duluth for the 20th Annual Toothpick Bridge Competition. It's put together by the American Society of Civil Engineers and it's meant to inspire students.

"We've got students from the North Shore to the Iron Range, all the way to Bayfield, Wisconsin," UMD's Mark Robert said, who is with the Engineering Department. "We're always interested in showing younger people the possibilities that exist within engineering."

The competition tested 180 toothpick bridges by filling up buckets of sand beneath each bridge. Once the bridge broke, the bucket was weighed and and it's load capacity was recorded. Many students spent hours putting together their bridges and watching them break was sometimes difficult.

"I'm kind of really sad right now," Hermantown ninth grade student Jacki Jonas said. "I feel like I'm going to cry."

"I was kind of sad and kind of happy at the same time because it's done now," Hermantown ninth grade student Damin Pilon said. "I don't have to work on it anymore."

While each toothpick bridge eventually broke, the reason behind the competition got stronger with every scoop of sand.

"I've always thought about being an architect," Pilon said. "Seeing something you wrote down on paper come to life, I just think that's kind of cool."

The strongest bridge Tuesday held about 120 pounds. Over the last 20 years of the contest, 268 pounds is the record amount of weight.

Tuesday's event saw the most students and bridges in the competition's history.