Three student teams took home top honors in the virtual 2022 National Bridge and Structure Competition on March 29 – an event hosted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and infrastructure software firm Bentley Systems. HDR, Headlight, HNTB, Michael Baker International, TopoDOT, and WSP also helped sponsored this year’s contest.
[Above image via the AASHTO TRAC program]
In the 7th and 8th grade division, Tiger Construction Inc. – a team from the Chesapeake Math and IT Academy North Middle School in Maryland – won first place. In the 9th and 10th grade division, the ‘Tied to the Arch’ team from Michigan’s Northville High School won first place, while the SAB Civil Engineering from the Lenawee Intermediate School District or LISD Tech Center in Michigan placed first in the 11th and 12th grade division.
The National Bridge and Structure Competition – typically held in-person at AASHTO’s Spring Meeting – is a one-day event that represents the culmination of nearly eight months work by the various student teams involved. It is part of the AASHTO Transportation and Civil Engineering or TRAC program for middle and high school students.
The competing student teams construct model bridges made from kits provided by the TRAC program that include glue and balsa wood. They then use infrastructure software to design their bridges, build prototypes, and use destructive testing to gauge the upper limits of the strength-to-weight ratio of their designs.
The competition 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. From those nine finalists, a panel of engineers and sponsor executives selected the three winners based on evaluations of virtual presentations by each team, which included analysis of their overall portfolio of work.
First place team members receive $400 e-gift cards, with second place team members receiving $300 e-gift cards and third place team members receiving $200 e-gift cards. The teachers serving as advisors those teams each receive a $250 e-gift card.
The TRAC program provides students in grades seven through 12 the opportunity to get involved with transportation-related science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM courses, AASHTO noted – an effort mirrored at the elementary-school level via AASHTO’s Roadways In Developing Elementary Students or RIDES initiative.
“The role of civil engineers is critical to transportation infrastructure,” explained Dustin Parkman, Bentley’s VP for transportation mobility, in a statement.
“The hands-on experience of the TRAC program introduces students to civil engineering concepts and processes, inspiring them to imagine a future career in engineering,” he added. “I’m proud that AASHTO, Bentley, the other sponsors, and [state] DOTs came together to provide this opportunity for the students to present their projects virtually and get the recognition that they deserve.”
“America’s transportation industry has a huge demand for well-qualified civil engineers,” added Julia Smith, manager of the AASHTO TRAC & RIDES program. “TRAC’s goal is to get middle and high school students exposed to and excited about a career in civil engineering. We see TRAC as an investment in today’s youth, to ensure that America has the highly skilled workforce it’s going to need for years to come.”