Stan’s Obligatory Blog


I love a good engineering contest

Filed under: — stan @ 9:40 pm

Last Thursday when I was on my way home from stair practice in downtown Los Angeles, I saw a sign in Union Station that said they were having a popsicle stick bridge-building competition there on Saturday. I love going to see engineering contests, so I thought this might make for a fun destination for a bike ride. So Silvio and I rode down there this morning to see it.

When we got downtown, I saw the first gas station I’ve seen with all its prices over $5.00. A sign of the times.

There were teams from a lot of local high schools there, all showing off their bridges and the story of how they built each one. It seemed that there was a bit of convergent evolution at work, since a lot of the bridges had similar looks, but there were some that were different. In particular, we talked to the faculty adviser for one of the teams, and he said that a careful reading of the contest rules said that in the final testing, force would only be applied right at the center of the bridge span. So their design did not have a lot of bracing at the ends, but had a very sturdy arch in the center. Clever. We talked to one of the other teams and asked them about the testing they had done on their bridge. They said that they had tested it up to some absurd weight over 500 pounds. That was impressive. It was fun to get to see and talk to so many nerdy high school kids.

Afterward, we headed home the same way we’d come. It was a nice day, but I needed to get back early. Still, it was a fun little diversion.

26 miles.

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