PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles High School students swept the 2020 Popsicle Bridge Competition, snagging the top three spots with spans built of wood and glue.
The event for high school students from the Puget Sound area, which was conducted Feb. 8 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, was hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Although any given school can enter only three bridges in actual competition, Port Angeles brought six bridges to Seattle, testing three unofficially. The bridges represented the engineering skills of 17 students.
Bridges were tested for the amount of weight they could bear before breaking, with additional points awarded for aesthetics and efficiency of the design.
In the competition, each bridge was tested for deflection with a weighted pine wood derby car and then pushed to structural failure using a machine press.
All bridges were required to weight less than 350 grams and span 26 inches, and be constructed using only Popsicle sticks and white glue.
Project adviser Derek Johnson, a teacher at the high school, said aesthetic value was an important factor in how the bridges were judged. He said many schools entered bridges of very similar design, but Port Angeles students brought a variety of designs to the competition.
“Port Angeles bridges are all different,” Johnson said. ”You know the engineers didn’t do it for them.”
Out of 25 bridges tested at the competition, only seven held more than 200 pounds and five of those were from Port Angeles. The other two were from Lynnwood High School.
The first place team of Emily Sirguy, Kynzie Deleon and Emma Weller, all seniors, took first place overall as well as first place in aesthetics. Their bridge withstood a force of 273 pounds before breaking.
For their effort, they were each awarded $500 scholarships funded by a pool of local engineers.
Deleon and Weller had each received additional $200 scholarships from previous bridge building competitions.
The sophomore team of Olivia Carroll, Gillian Wolfe, Adam Weller and Corey Young placed second overall, snagging first-place points for the efficiency of their bridge after holding 241 pounds. The students each received $300 scholarships.
Third place overall was the team of Thomas Shaw and Scott Allerdings, both seniors. Their bridge held 206 pounds and took second place in aesthetics, earning them $200 scholarships.
An unofficial bridge built by junior Jonathan Daracunas held 245 pounds and the team of seniors Andrew Baker and Areeb Altaf and junior Gunnar Peterson withstood 210 pounds.
Freshmen Kowen Kasten, Jacob Miller, Liberty Lauer and Kaylee Oldemeyer constructed an unofficial bridge that held 182 pounds.
The students began working on their designs in November with weekly advice from civil engineers Gene Unger, Joe Donisi, Chris Hartman and Seth Rodman.
Unger said there was an educational value to the task of designing a bridge.
“They get an introduction to engineering,” he said. “Because civil engineering is so broad, they actually get an introduction to any engineering they want to get into, whether its electrical, mechanical or civil. Civil includes highways, bridge structures, water systems, sewer systems and marine structures.”
Sirguy said she was pleased that her team’s bridge was able to place first in the competition.
“It was really exciting for everyone because this is our team’s third year of doing bridge building,” she said. “Each year we’ve done better.”
Weller said her team’s attention to detail was a key to their bridge’s success.
“I think in our first year, we didn’t realize how important it was to put it together well,” she said. “We first thought it was just design, but we figured out that how well we built it was really important.”
Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at [email protected]