Port Angeles High School students win awards for popsicle-stick bridges

PORT ANGELES — Eleven Port Angeles High School students are receiving scholarships after their popsicle-stick bridges withstood the pressure at an annual statewide contest.

Bridges built with only popsicle sticks and white glue were driven to their breaking points during the annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Contest sponsored by the Younger Member Forum of the American Society of Civil Engineers on Feb. 10 in Seattle.

Competitors had designed small bridges — 24 inches long and weighing under 300 grams — that were both strong and aesthetically pleasing. They were judged for creativity, and then subjected to the pressures of a hydraulic press until they snapped.

“It’s always impressive to me what they come up with,” said Joe Donisi, ­Clallam County assistant engineer, one of the advisers of the Port Angeles students.

The bridge taking first place held 541 pounds before breaking.

The second-place bridge — designed by a Port Angeles team — held 417 pounds.

“While we didn’t win” first place, “only four bridges held over 200 pounds and three of those were ours,” Donisi said.

The Port Angeles teams entered three bridges — as many as allowed — as well as an unofficial entry in the contest which had 33 entries from throughout the state.

Each of the students on the four teams won scholarships awarded by the engineering firms of Gene Unger Engineering, Zenovic and Associates and JLG Group, Inc, d/b/a Northwestern Territories Inc.

Adam Light, who led the bridge-design crew with fellow students Natasha Lipsky, Jocelyn Reifenstahl and Polly Price, said a series of sketches led to the construction of his team’s second-place bridge.

“I just started drawing out designs,” he said. “We took those to the engineers to look at and we started making changes.”

Lipsky said she didn’t expect her team’s structure would stand up to the punishment.

“I didn’t think it would hold as much as it did,” she said. “I was amazed.

“I learned that triangles are very strong.”

Light, who has aspirations of eventually going to an engineering school, said the popsicle bridge contest was a good introduction to the things he would encounter in a future career.

“It was kind of a reality check on how to design and build a bridge,” he said.

Results were:

 Second place overall — Light and Reifenstahl, seniors; and sophomores Lipsky and Price. Each student received a $500 scholarship.

 Third Place overall — Sophomores Andrew Baker and Matthew Lasher, who designed and built a bridge that held 292 pounds. Each received a $300 scholarship.

 First place aesthetics — Juniors Linus Waddell and Hollund Bailey and senior Daniel Weaver. Each received a $200 scholarship.

Theirs was “a very cool looking bridge,” Donisi said.

Team member Bailey submitted a T-shirt design that was selected to use for next year’s competition.

 Unofficial entry — Leo Ahlberg, a senior, and Mauritz Ahlberg, a freshman; both received $200 scholarships. Their bridge held 285 pounds and if it had been an official entry, it would have placed first in efficiency, said engineer Gene Unger, another advisor for the group.

Engineer advisers — who have been working with Port Angeles teams for 19 years — “don’t design for them or tell them how to make it happen,” Donisi said.

Structures are critiqued and tested for weaknesses — then the students start over, Donisi said.

“They listen to the theory and try to implement engineering principles,” he said.

“We want students interested in science or engineering to have exposure to engineers.”

Other advisers are Derek Johnson, Seth Rodman, Jaylene Atha and Chris Hartman.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected]

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