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Toothpicks, Glue, and Skill

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21st Annual Toothpick Bridge Competition

High School girls

Each year, high school students congregate at UMD to combine skill, glue, and toothpicks to vie for first-place in a bridge building competition.

On February 26, the Duluth Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 21st Annual Toothpick Bridge Competition was held at UMD. Over 250 people attended the event, along with UMD students who volunteered to help out with the competition. The competition was started in 1994 as a fun way to reach out to high school students and introduce them to engineering. It has always been popular; this year over 120 bridges were built by students from 10 different area high schools.

"The ASCE Toothpick Bridge competition is a great way to spark an interest in engineering at an age when students are thinking about college," said Kyrstyn Haapala, a civil engineering graduate student. "Holding the competition in the Civil Engineering building is also an opportunity to show the students the great facilities UMD has to offer."

The competition is open to all high school students in Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. The students competed for the Strongest Bridge and the Most Economical Bridge. Throughout the event, civil engineering student Will DeRocher helped the students position their bridges before they were load tested. "The blocks the bridges sat on had to be a specific distance apart to ensure consistent testing," DeRocher said.  "It was an enjoyable day and quite fun to see the creativity displayed in all of the different bridge designs."  

The Strongest Bridge had to weigh less than 90 grams. The winning bridge was the one that supported the most weight possible, using only toothpicks and glue. The bridge that held the most weight held 262.2 pounds. The Most Economical Bridge was awarded to the lightest bridge that can hold 10 kilograms. Students also had the opportunity to compete for the Most Aesthetically Pleasing Bridge. Each category has a first, second, and third prize. Bridges that won first through third received a plaque, and each student on the winning team won a small trophy.

Check out the VIDEO by UMD student Jessica Cohen

Toothpick Bridge High School Students
UMD civil engineering student, Will DeRocher (left) helps high school students test their bridges. Ten regional high schools participated.
Crowd Umd students
Over 120 bridges were given the strength test. DeRocher (left) and UMD student Kyrstyn Haapala (right) helped show off the UMD's engineering facilities.
Students Toothpick Bridge


Written by Brilynn Janckila, February 2014.

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