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Students Use Popsicle Sticks To Engineer The Future...and Avoid Another Jamzilla

More than 250 students from 31 Southern California high schools will battle to build the strongest bridge and tackle America's aging infrastructure

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Cheering over the collapse of a bridge doesn't happen every day.  But it will be a familiar sound at the 20th Annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition to be held on Saturday, Feb. 15, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). 

The public is invited to watch more than 250 students from 71 teams discover how much weight their model bridges, made of Popsicle sticks and white glue, can hold when tested in front of their peers, teachers and parents. Hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Younger Member Forum, the competition will draw 31 high schools from across Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties for a full-day celebration of math, science and engineering.

Ironically, as students work to create the infrastructure solutions of the future, L.A. commuters will face another major weekend lane closure during construction on the heavily-congested Interstate 405, nicknamed "Jamzilla" by local transportation officials.

"This competition teaches students much more than how to build cool bridges out of wood and glue," said Jonathan Levy, a member of CSUN's Civil Engineering and Construction Management Department's Advisory Board and founder of Beezley Management,  a construction management firm and event sponsor.  "Students learn about the daily challenges faced by civil engineers and other industry practitioners, and also about the importance of leadership, teamwork and creative problem-solving." 

Months in advance, student teams were challenged to design and build their Popsicle stick bridges following official rules.  During the competition, they will present a technical report, display board and oral presentation to a panel of engineers and other professionals serving as volunteer judges. 

The judges will then test the strength of each bridge on a loading machine to measure how much pressure it can sustain before collapsing.  Once a bridge fails, testing monitors will explain to the team why their bridge collapsed and how to make the design stronger in the future.

The winning teams will be selected based on strength, efficiency, aesthetics and overall presentation and will be awarded cash scholarships. Throughout the day, participating students will also have the chance to tour the campus and participate in a variety of impromptu events. 

Jennifer Heredia, who is co-chair of the event, an ASCE member and bridge engineer for HDR Inc., said that this will be the first visit to a college campus for many of the student participants.

"This bridge building competition is a great way to encourage students to pursue higher education and promote the civil engineering profession in our community," Heredia said. "Thanks to the support of our amazing volunteers and sponsors, we can help encourage and motivate our youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math."

The competition is free and open to the public. On-campus parking is available for $6 per day at parking structures B5, G3 and E6. The following is the event schedule:

8 to 9 a.m.

Students arrive

9 a.m.

Nazaret Dermendjian, chair of CSUN Department of Civil

Engineering and Construction Management, greets students at Plaza del Sol Quad

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

All-day bridge testing at Jacaranda Hall, campus tours and impromptu events

5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Awards ceremony with remarks by Jonathan Levy, founder of Beezley

Management, and announcement of winning teams

Event sponsors include ASCE Los Angeles Section, AECOM, Beezley Management, Rail Pros, J.F. Shea and ARUP.  The competition will also locally kick off national Engineers' Week, observed throughout the country on Feb. 16-22, 2014. For more information, visit http://bridge.mlab-ymf.org.

SOURCE American Society of Civil Engineers Younger Member Forum

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