Logo: University of Southern California

Viterbi School Hosts ASCE Bridge Building Contest for High School Students

The Competition Is Organized by the American Society of Civil Engineers Younger Member Forum
lisa heckaman
March 03, 2011 —

Over 250 high school students from the greater Los Angeles area gathered on USC's University Park Campus to watch months of their hard work climax in the annual competition to see who could build the strongest bridge out of popsicle sticks.

Sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) kicked off National Engineers Week.  Teams had spent months prior to the event designing, building, and testing popsicle stick bridge prototypes, writing reports, and creating presentations for the contest, which was organized by ASCE's  Younger Member Forum .

The contest is designed to reflect the challenges faced everyday by working engineers with students exhibiting leadership and learning how to work together to solve problems. While an aptitude for science, math and technology is invaluable for a career in engineering, the students learned that teamwork and leadership were also important.  And since all the bridges were loaded until they failed, the found valuable lessons in the failures.   All of the students were encouraged to pursue higher education and to consider a career in engineering.

Opening remarks were from Professor Jean-Pierre Bardet
  In his opening talk, Jean-Pierre Bardet, chair of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, spoke of ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure.  Bardet noted that local bridges had received a C grade, compared to America’s overall infrastructure GPA of D. "Any high school student knows that when striving for excellence in school, a C doesn’t cut it and neither do structurally deficient or functionally obsolete bridges,"  Bardet said. "While the Nation works to rebuild this infrastructure, we will need more engineers to help meet the immense demand."

He added that he was impressed at the level of quality and craftsmanship in the students' popsicle stick bridges. "Students of any age participating in regional competitions such as today's event, have the potential to be the much needed engineer leaders of tomorrow," said Bardet.

Student teams competed in a series of events across campus including bridge loading, project presentations, a poster competition, technical reports, and an impromptu stomp rocket contest. In addition to the judged events, students were given tours of the USC campus.

The highlight for teams was to see how much weight their bridges could hold, and particularly, to see if it met their predictions. The strongest bridge held an impressive 782 pounds of loading.

Students reinforce their 'Bridges' during the event.
Outside of Kaprielian Hall, students built rockets using white paper and scotch tape and tested them. The winning rocket soared an Impressive 180 feet.

At the closing ceremony Michelle Smith, a transportation engineer for Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority,told students about her experiences as a civil engineer. She described her career and the types of projects she worked on.  She also told them what education she need to get where she is today.

1st Place: Team Varignon of F.B Medical Magnet High School
Medals were presented for Best Design Aesthetics, Best Presentation, Best Display Board, First Place Impromptu, First Place Strength, and Most Professional Technical Report. The Most Outstanding awards were given to the teams with the highest overall weighted scores of all judged events. The top three teams received a team trophy and individual plaques for each member.

Team Varignon of Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School took first place this year.  In addition to  bragging rights and the biggest trophy, the winners also received a $1000 scholarship.


The local television affiliates from NBC and ABC and some international media covered the competition.  For a complete list of results and additional pictures please visit http://bridge.mlab-ymf.org.

ASCE Metropolitan Los Angeles Branch (MLAB) and Orange County (OC) Younger Member Forums (YMF) organized the event with additional support from the USC ASCE Chapter. Volunteers from all levels of ASCE as well as other professionals served as the judges for the day’s events. The success of this event is credited to the many volunteers, supporters, and sponsors who contributed countless hours and/or financial support.

Sponsors for the 2011 PSBC include the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, AECOM, Gibson Transportation Consulting, Inc., Hilti, LA County Department of Public Works, Simpson StrongTie, and Walter P. Moore.


For more information on the Organizers of the annual event, please visit here or visit the official Facebook page