Video: The 2023 West Virginia Bridge Design & Build Contest

In April, middle and high school students from across West Virginia competed in the 20th annual West Virginia Bridge Design & Build Contest, sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Transportation and hosted by West Virginia University Institute of Technology at its Beckley campus.

[Above image by AASHTO]

Those student teams faced off in two distinct rounds of the competition, first by designing bridge models using computer software and then testing to destruction bridge models built several months ahead of the contest.  

“Destructive testing” consisted of suspending the student’s bridge models over a 12-inch gap on tables.

Contest judges slowly added sand to an empty bucket suspended from a metal hook placed in the center of the bridge model, continually adding sand to the bucket until the bridge model failed. Bridges that supported the most weight before collapsing were the winners.

The first, second, and third place winners in each stage took home plaques and anywhere from $100 to $400 in cash prizes, as well as other “swag” provide by WVDOT and WVU Tech.

Dr. Horng-Jyh “Tigra” Yang, associate professor and geotechnical engineer with WVU Institute of Technology’s civil engineering department explained that this contest is part of a broader effort to attract students into Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics or ‘STEM’ programs as well as teach them the fundamentals of civil engineering.

“West Virginia, like many states, is short of engineers so we hope to build on this program to attract more students into the civil engineering field,” he noted.

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