CM students enter bridge-building competition at LHU

PHOTO PROVIDED A closer look at a bridge design and early construction.

MILL HALL — For the seventh consecutive year, Fred Hoy will be taking students from his Career and Technology Drafting and Design class at Central Mountain High School to the Lock Haven University Bridge Building Competition. This year’s event will be held Friday.

The process starts with students designing their bridge in AutoCAD, a commercial computer aided design and drafting software program. Once the designs are finalized, they are printed and placed on a cardboard box top.

Only two materials are used in construction– basswood sticks, purchased by Lock Haven University and glue.

“The glue can add considerable weight to the structure” said Hoy. “I supply glue, but students will often purchase their own glue” he continued.

The maximum weight of the bridge cannot exceed 25 grams. No other materials may be used and the bridges cannot be stained, painted or coated.

PHOTO PROVIDED Fred Hoy works with his Drafting and Design students as they construct their bridges. Shown are Matthew Schubach, Matt Pannela, Joseph Moore and Micah Schall.

Students begin construction by gluing pieces of basswood together, using push pins as clamps. Some students soak the wood in water to make it easier for constructing bridge arcs and other, more intricate designs. Students spend about 6 to 8 hours designing and building their bridges.

The day of the LHU competition, Central Mountain students will compete against several other regional schools. Competitions are individual based.

The winner of the Bridge Building Competition is determined by who can design, construct, and test the most efficient bridge within the criteria established by the International Bridge Building Committee.

For competition, each bridge is centered on a support surface and connected to a weight bearing apparatus. The load is applied from below. At the LHU competition, buckets and sand are used to apply weight. The bridge with the highest structural efficiency wins the competition. In other words, the bridge that holds the most weight before breaking wins.

Central Mountain competes in the Central PA Region.

The LHU competition allows the student who earns first place to compete in the National Bridge Building competition in Chicago, held in April 2018.

CM student, Matthew Schubach is Hoy’s first student to compete at Nationals.

“I’ve had other students qualify, but they are on their own for transportation and accommodations, so past qualifiers have chosen not to attend. In 2017, Matthew ranked 38th in the country”, said Hoy.

According to the Illinois Institute of Technology, the construction and testing of model bridges promotes the study and application of fundamental physics and also helps high school students get a flavor for what it is to be an engineer.