Students build bridges to career paths

Youth explore engineering at YSU competition

YOUNGSTOWN — It might not be a stretch to surmise that a connection between Dakota Jones and his desire to be an airplane technician can be found in a 45-gram wooden structure.

“We built it four times,” the Lowellville K-12 School senior said, referring to a small bridge he and two other students designed with balsa wood. “It usually holds around 150 pounds.”

The elaborate project also held the possibility of going a long way in Monday’s 13th annual Mahoning Valley Miniature Bridge Building competition in Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley Center.

Twenty-eight teams of students in grades nine to 12 representing 14 high schools in Mahoning and Trumbull counties competed in the six-hour event. Also on hand were teams from the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center and the Trumbull Career and Technical Center.

Jones, who plans to attend the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, said he and the others designed the project in two hours, 40 minutes, which met the three-hour time limit.

“We made the arches and glued everything together,” he explained.

The projects were judged and awarded on aesthetics, efficiency, most improved, design methods, most weight carried and teamwork. Specific criteria included adhering to certain symmetry, weight, length, height, width and spacing requirements, noted Brian Hughes, senior project manager with MS Consultants Inc., one of the event sponsors.

Later in the event, two bridges at a time were placed on tables with openings in the middle and buckets of small metal weights underneath. The weights were methodically added to the wooden structures to test their capacity before they collapsed and fell.

Beforehand, the students had building kits and time to practice at their schools, then were given fresh kits for Monday’s competition, Hughes said.

“They come with a design in mind and fine-tune it here,” he added.

That methodology played out for Chloe Koerner and Jennifer Tedrow, both students at MCCTC in Canfield. Beforehand, the two freshmen had built a practice bridge at their school that held 25 pounds; at the competition, their latest one withstood 41.62 pounds of pressure before collapsing.

“We began with the base and the triangles on the side, and the outer part on top,” Chloe explained about what went into the girls’ truss-style bridge.

Chloe added that she is considering engineering as a possible career choice.

In addition to providing a challenging way to exercise their scientific acumen, Monday’s bridge-building competition gave the participants a glance into civil engineering and a way to further consider such careers, noted Mahoning County Engineer Patrick T. Ginnetti.

The students were challenged to apply a lot of math, science and calculations to their work, said Ginnetti, who also teaches courses in land surveying and beginning engineering at YSU.

“This takes it away from the textbooks and makes it fun,” he said, adding that the wooden replicas have real-world applications, such as simulating the critical importance of constructing safe bridges.



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