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Posted 6/4/2014

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By Sara Corbett
Corporate Communications

Picture frames, birdhouses and pencil holders are a few items that can be made from craft sticks and wood glue, but the only product The Citadel is looking for is a sturdy bridge.

Each year, The Citadel hosts a bridge building competition to celebrate National Engineer Week and each year Charleston District employees volunteer to judge this event. This year, Brendan Kight, engineer and Citadel graduate, judged approximately 25 bridges made by middle and high school students from around the Charleston area.

“Innovation and creativity in the STEM fields are the hallmark of an advanced nation and economy,” said Dennis Fallon, Professor of Engineering Education at The Citadel. “The quality of life that we enjoy in the United States is directly tied to the STEM fields. Students need to be exposed in these areas very early in their education. The bridge building competition provides this opportunity to engage in one facet of STEM by using their creative skills to design a craft stick bridge.”

There are two components to the contest. The first round of judging is based on best architectural design, best original design, best craftsmanship and most constructible. The second round is best structural design, also known as load testing.

“Encouraging students to build a bridge out of set materials and dimensions gives them a better understanding of what it’s like to build a house or building; you have set material and dimensions that you have to follow,” explained Kight.

Kight judged the first round of the competition; he looked for the most aesthetic structure, most original, the best quality and finally the most functional aspects if the bridge were to be built in the “real world.” Each category had a first, second and third place award.

“I really enjoyed interacting with the kids,” said Kight. “They were very interested in the criteria of the judging and how they could win. It was a great competition between the kids.”

The second round judges used a load test beam to measure the weight to height ratio of the bridge. The bridge was placed between two beams and sand was slowly added to a bucket, adding weight, to the other end of the beams. The lightest bridge to support 100 pounds was the best structural design winner.

Congratulations to all the winners of the bridge building competitions.