Student Winners Named for the 2023 AASHTO Bridge Challenge

Eighteen teams of middle and high school students from eight states competed at the 2023 AASHTO Bridge Challenge event on May 16 in Seattle – a national contest held in conjunction with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials 2023 Spring Meeting.

[Above photo by AASHTO]

Sponsored by Bentley Systems, Michael Baker International, TopoDOT, HNTB, HDR, Housman and Associates, and HeadLight, the AASHTO Bridge Challenge is designed to promote an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM disciplines among middle and high school students.

The competition consists of five phases: Design bridges via Model Smart and Bentley software; build a physical bridge model using glue and balsa wood from pre-packaged kits; develop a portfolio; conduct a presentation in front of a panel of judges; destructive testing of the bridge models to calculate their ultimate strength-to-weight ratios.

Those 18 teams comprised of 7th through 12th grade students were selected out of a pool of 86 portfolios for the contest’s final round on May 16.

During the one-day final round, those 18 student teams made formal presentations to a panel of judges in the morning and then submitted their balsa wood bridge models for destructive testing in the afternoon.

Judges awarded points to the teams for their presentations and the strength-to-weight ratio displayed by their bridge models, with the teams with the most cumulative points winning in their respective grade category.

Those first, second, and third place winners in each grade level category were:

7th & 8th Grade Division

  • 1st Place: Patriotic G.A.S. – Sophia Jiang, Ananyaa Rakkappan, Grace Zhao – Meads Mill Middle School, Northville, MI.
  • 2nd Place: CN^2 – Nikki Cox, Colton Rogers, Natalee Tran – Mantachie Middle School, Mantachie, MS.
  • 3rd Place: TRUSSworthy Pals – Angel Adesoji, Rony Quijada, Chiezita Uzoukwu – Chesapeake Math & IT Academy North Middle School, Laurel, MD.

9th & 10th Grade Division

  • 1st Place: Tied Arch Titans – Joshua Lee, Jonas Yan, Sriraam Hebbar – Northville High School, Northville, MI.
  • 2nd Place: Mission ImBALSAble – Katelyn Baker, Mattis Riddle, Kamryn Van Sickle – Clinton High School, Clinton, MI.
  • 3rd Place: BEHS Young Team 1 – Kelan Dennis, Guiliano Jules, Anjan Kumar Sangam – Blanche Ely High School, Pompano Beach, FL.

11th & 12th Grade Division

  • 1st Place: 906 Bridge Co. – Ryan Hemmila, Thomas McCollum, Phil Nelson – Negaunee High School – Negaunee, MI.
  • 2nd Place: SAB Civil Engineering – Desiree Almeida, Page Baker, Nathaniel Sherick – LISD Tech Center, Adrian, MI.
  • 3rd Place: Tackticians – Adreas Aghajanian, Hayden Schricker, Logan Weinstein – Taft Charter High School, Woodland Hills, CA.

What was then called the 2019 TRAC Bridge Competition in Salt Lake City was the last time this contest was held in-person prior to the 2023 event. The contest switched gears to become a “virtual showcase” in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For 2022, while remaining virtual, the event returned to a competitive format with nine teams selected as finalists from a pool of 84 submitted projects vying for top honors in an online forum.

This national contest is part of the “AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions,” previously known as the “Transportation and Civil Engineering” or TRAC program for 7th through 12th grade students.

AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions also includes an elementary-school level program known as the “Roadways In Developing Elementary Students”​or RIDES initiative.

Longtime transportation industry veteran Tom Clemons, now serving as vice president of technology integration for TopoDOT, noted at the competition that the AASHTO Bridge Challenge and the AASHTO STEM Outreach Solutions program offer “a great opportunity” to attract young people to transportation careers.

“You all here represent some of the best and brightest minds from our schools,” Clemons remarked to the gathered teams as the contest got underway. “Finding new people to fill out our workforce is the biggest crisis we face in transportation. And this contest is one way we can help solve that problem.”

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