About 50 area students spanned the distance from design to realization when they took part in the 2013 Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Bridge Contest Saturday at the Viewmont Mall in Dickson City.
Students from 20 area high schools took part in the annual event.
The contest gave participants opportunity to design and present model bridges for judging and allowed them to develop planning, execution and problem-solving skills.
Participants got a better understanding of what it is to do the work of an engineer, designing the bridges to certain specifications for a specific function.
The bridges were tested with a stress machine to determine efficiency — the load it can carry relative to its weight.
Simply, the most efficient bridges won.
Robert Taylor, director of engineering management at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, a sponsor of the event, said that efficiency has become increasingly important in the field. “It used to be that engineers were concerned with simply building things well,” said Taylor.
“But we are now also now concerned with the environment, minimizing waste, recycling and minimizing long-term costs.”
“I love see to other designs as they are being tested,” said participant Everett Appleby who attends GAR High School and the Wilkes-Barre Area Career & Technical Center.
“It helps me understand how my own design might be improved.”
Appleby, a senior, was especially excited to participate in this weekend’s event because he plans to attend Penn State University next school year and major in engineering.
Dave Zaykoski, drafting and design instructor at the Wilkes-Barre Area Career & Technical Center, said participants worked “many, many hours” and often took their bridges home to perfect them.
“This is a great experience in critical thinking, in applying date and analyzing results,” said Zaykoski, “in being committed to planning and executing an idea.”
David Johns, representing Greenman-Pedersen Engineering, an event sponsor, said each participant was able to present something unique.
“Each model bridge is different in structure and appearance, each has it own type of creativity and architectural style,” he said.
No two bridges in the competition looked alike; types and features included arch, beam, laminated beam and triangle design.
Donald Kieffer, director of the contest, said he hopes it encouraged participants to consider careers in engineering, science, math and technology.
The two top winners of the event will advance to the International Bridge Building Contest, held in Chicago in April.