Brandon STEM Students Building Bridges

Brandon STEM Pathway freshmen entered the 2015 Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Bridge Competition. In the 9th and 10th grade division of the competition, three member teams design and build balsa wood vertical lift bridges. This project tests their ability to work as a team, their attention to detail, their time management skills, and their problem solving skills. To qualify for the state competition, teams are required to prepare a written bridge proposal and a bridge design, using MDOT computer aided drafting (CAD) software.

In total, twenty Brandon teams submitted documents for consideration. A record eighteen team entries have been accepted, meaning 54 students will represent Brandon next month and compete in the 9th and 10th grade division in Grand Rapids, on April 19th, against teams from all over Michigan. In the competition half of their score will be determined by their bridge model performance. MDOT engineers inspect the bridges for compliance to design criteria and then weigh and strength test them. Their strength to weight ratios will be calculated and compared to other competitors. The other half of their score is based on a 7-10 minute oral presentation, again to MDOT engineers. In this presentation, teams must share their overall experience including their research, engineering design process application, and their design, construction, and teamwork challenges. The freshmen have been working on this project since October.

The two remaining teams, while not qualifying for the state contest, will compete against each other locally. The MDOT Bridge Challenge is in its 15th year. It is a part of MDOT’s Transportation and Civil Engineering (TRAC) Program, a hands on educational program designed for integration into science, math, and social science classes. Brandon STEM students have entered this competition every year since the STEM program began in the 2010-2011 school year.