St. Joseph’s Intermediate held its first annual toothpick bridge competition in the school auditorium on June 16. What a success it was!
Building toothpick bridges was a inexpensive project that made math, science, and technology meaningful and real to the students. It allowed them to use geometry to design, plan, and build scale model bridges out of wooden toothpicks. It also encouraged cooperation among the students as they worked together in pairs. All three grade seven classes at St. Joseph’s participated, with a total of 32 bridges being entered in the contest.
The project took about four days (class periods) to complete, with one extra period used to test the bridges at the end. The first period was devoted to researching some background information on building bridges. All students were excited to learn a lot about bridges. On the second day, students were given specifications for the bridge building competition. The bridges had to be at least 30 centimeters long, from one abutment to the other, and at least 5 centimeters wide. Students were grouped together in pairs, and each team was given 100 toothpicks and glue for the bridge construction. Students started designing their bridges on graph paper for the next class meeting.
When the bridges were completed, they were evaluated by the Grade Seven Communication Technology teacher, Mr. Gerard Butt, for design, neatness, and accuracy (that is, how well they match their plans) before they were judged for strength. On Monday, June 16th , the bridges were tested for strength - literally to the breaking point - according to the guidelines that were given to the students.
The results of the Grade Seven Tooth Pick Bridge
Building competition are as follows:
1st Place Team, holding a weight of 14.6 kilograms: William Squibb and Patrick Butt;
2nd Place Team, holding a weight of 13.8 kilograms: Natasha Hollett and Molly Reichel;
3rd Place Team, holding a weight of 12.5 kilograms: Victoria Ralph and Stephanie Rickert.
Honorable mention to the following teams: Garrett Mangrove and Mitchell Reynolds, Kendell Dwyer and Samantha Hiscock, Billy Smith and Brittany Trickett, Matthew O’Keefe and Hillary Finn, and Jillian Squibb and Duane Osmond.
The members of the top three teams were each awarded a Bridge Building medallion, and a cash prize was given to the first place team. A perpetual plaque will be unveiled tomorrow at this years closing assembly, with the names of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners inscribed.
Hopefully the bridge-breaking was not the end of the tooth pick construction project. Some students have expressed an interest in building other types of model bridges and actually entering some regional or provincial bridge competitions next year. Students may also apply the skills they learned in this activity to some real life projects, such as building a tree house, a pole house, or an actual bridge. Whatever the case, the grade sevens showed a lot of enthusiasm in this project and had fun.
While activities such as model bridge building competitions may not make future engineers or architects out of all the students, it does help them see the world around them a little differently. At least, bridges will never look the same to these students again.
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