The hydraulic press crushes one of the final bridges, as well as the builder's dreams of a $500 paycheque and a trip to the bridge building finals at Concordia University in Montreal on March 8.

Photo: Leigh Doyle

A popsicle stick bridge too weak

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By Leigh Doyle

Destruction was imminent. The crowd of over 150 students waited patiently in the room known as The Pit for the carnage to begin. Three major media outlets were also in room 202 of the Architecture building last Friday to watch the eighth annual bridge building challenge.

Each year, engineering and architecture students in teams of six build bridges out of no more than four kg popsicle sticks, two bottles of glue and unlimited amount of dental floss. The bridges are then loaded with weight until they break to test how much each can support. The winning team takes home $500 and a spot in the national finals, March 8 at Concordia University in Montreal.

Last year, Ryerson teams came in first and fourth at the national level.

Dale Lynch, a fourth-year civil engineering student and head of the Ryerson Civil Engineering Society, is confident this year. “We plan to bring back the championship one more time,” he said.

When the consent started however, none of the bridges could stack up to last year’s. Sherry Sutherland, a third-year civil engineering student, tested her group’s bridge, named Styx, first. “Our design is similar to the one who got first last year,” she said.

Styx held 190 kg before it snapped. Last year, the bridge with the similar design held 5000 kg. Mark Jamieson, Sutherland’s teammate, saw the problem when Styx was being prepared for loading on the weight. “We didn’t build it quite straight,” he said while holding a piece of Styx.

After their defeat, Sutherland’s team joined the crowd in heckling the architecture team bridges. There is an ongoing rivalry between the programs and this competition, according to students, helps to determine who is better. “Architectures are the dreamers and we are the doers,” Jamieson said while shaking the snapped tension member.

Jack Sochacki and Artur Gaj were one of the two architecture teams who entered the competition. The two third-year students entered two bridges: Mafia Pop and Mafia SNAP that took 18 hours in total to build.

Their bridges held only 130 and 288 kg respectively.

It cam down to three: A-team, Ponte di Legno and Money Shots, each held over 400kg, so the next step was to test each in the hydraulic press on the fourth floor of the Monetary Times building.

A second-year civil engineering team headed by Chris Christidis built the winning bridge: A-team. It held 1000 kg before the tension member snapped.

Lynch and his team of fellow fourth-year students built Money Shots which held a final weight of 488 kg. Lynch was not disappointed with taking third place. The second year students “need to get a taste of the excitement and the competition” in Montreal he said.

Plus, Lynch said he is thrilled that the winners are engineers and not architecture students.

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