WVDOT Opens Annual Student Bridge Design Contest

The West Virginia Department of Transportation Students is putting the call out to students in middle and high schools statewide to enter the 2023 WV Bridge Design and Build Contest, hosted annually by the agency for more than 20 years. Entries are due by March 1 and registration is entirely free.

[Above photo by WVDOT]

WVDOT is partnering with the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia University Institute of Technology, and Bridgewalk for the 2023 contest.

In 2022, WVDOT said more than 80 schools and over 200 individual teams participated. All finalists will be awarded cash prizes between $100 and $400– including a prize for “Most Aesthetic Bridge.”

Photo by WVDOT

“We have schools that have come back to the competition for 20 years and counting,” said Jennifer Dooley, of WVDOT’s Public Relations Division, in a statement.

“With WVDOT, we have scholarships, co-op programs, tuition reimbursement, and training opportunities; backing up our dedication to being the best educated WVDOT in the country,” she added. “The competition helps us reach students with the message that there are great careers available in their home state.”

[Editor’s note: The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials oversees the national Transportation and Civil Engineering or TRAC program and its sister program RIDES – short for “Roadways In Developing Elementary Students​” – to introduce students in grades K-12 to the “work world” of transportation and civil engineering. The TRAC program culminates in the annual day-long National Bridge Competition, typically held in-person at AASHTO’s Spring Meeting.]

While the competition focuses on engineering, using real world design principles in the software with which students design their bridges, Dooley stressed that the competition is not just for students who already feel they would be good at engineering.

All students are encouraged to give it a try,” she pointed out. “This contest can reach any school, any student, and it’s a level playing field.  It’s exciting to see a seventh grader give it a try and find out they can do it. Students need to know that it’s okay to be a beginner and start where they are. This contest teaches them about engineering without expecting them to already know.”

WVDOT Secretary Jimmy Wriston – who served as a classroom volunteer in the early years of the competition – helped develop a process for coaching West Virginia’s students in 2016 that blends hard work with creativity that can be viewed below.

The initial qualifying round of the contest ends on March 1. Students from grade six through 12 attending a West Virginia public, private, or home school may enter individually or in teams of two.

For teams of two, the team captain should be the only one to register. Those registrations must include the contact information for each student, their parents, and their teachers.

“Teachers can email us at any time until February 17 to request volunteer assistance,” said Dustin Feazell, Transportation Engineering Technologist with the WVDOT Information Technology Division. “It helps students build the foundation for what they want to do in the future.”

Approximately the Top 25 individuals/teams with the lowest cost designs will be invited on March 3 to participate in the finals, which will be hosted on April 1 at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology Campus in Beckley.

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