Engineering Now .: Volume 4 - Edition 3 .: November 2007

2007 Polar Stick Bridge Competition

Western Engineering student volunteers test a bridge with weights at the 2007 Polar Stick Bridge Competition.

Never does the sound of splintering wood cause both such disappointment and such glee, as it does at the Annual Polar Stick Bridge Competition, which is hosted annually by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and recently sponsored by the London and District Section, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE).

There was disappointment on the part of the designers of the bridges, who watched their homemade creations collapse under the strain of load testing. The audience, however, clearly enjoyed the drama and the excitement as the bridges succumbed to the weights placed upon them.

And break they did. Eventually every bridge entered into the competition held on Friday, November 23rd, was pushed past its limit. One by one each bridge, made entirely with Polar Sticks and dental floss donated each year by Nestles and the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, was tested to the point of structural failure using weights. In some cases, weights did not do the trick and a hydraulic jack was employed.

This year the competition again had a number of strong entries. It was Josh Harwood, from H.B. Beal Secondary School who came out on top with the “Best Overall Bridge” prize. Josh beat out teams from A.B. Lucas Secondary School, Oakridge Secondary School as well as from Western Engineering and Fanshawe College to win. He also received the “Best Bridge by a High School Student or Team” award.

Other winners included Neil Neacappo-Martin and Alex Beaucage from Fanshawe College, who landed the “Best Bridge by a First Year Student or Team” award, and Jamie Lipson from A.B. Lucas Secondary School who received the nod for the “Most Aesthetically Pleasing Bridge”.

The sound of cracking wood, a sure sign that a bridge was near failure, regularly elicited gasps and murmurs from the crowd. There was laughter when occasionally a bridge would fail with such enthusiasm, that small pieces of Polar sticks and dried glue would fly impressive distances across the room.

The sight of a successful and undamaged bridge standing strong with all the available weights, 310kg, suspended beneath it generated the greatest response. Only two bridges managed this feat, but unfortunately both ended up being disqualified for not meeting competition standards.

The event was narrated by Civil and Environmental Engineering professor, Dr. Mike Bartlett, who also used the destruction of each bridge as a learning opportunity to explain how and why each bridge failed. Often he would also give suggestions for how a design could be improved for next year.

Dr. Ernest Yanful, Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering welcomed the participants, guests and spectators to the 14th Annual Competition. Dr. Jason Gerhard was Master of Ceremonies, while Coordinator of the Annual Polar Stick Competition, Dr. Jon Southen announced the winners of the awards. Mr. Azmi Hamoud represented the London and District Section of the CSCE. On behalf of the CSCE, he presented a plaque and prize money to the winner of the competition as well as the remaining prizes to the winners of the various categories.

Jan Shepherd McKee took on the responsibility of judging the bridges for aesthetic appeal. There was also a long list of other enthusiastic volunteers that included both CEE staff and students helping to make the event a success.


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.: Becky Blue
Spencer Engineering Building, Room 2074
Telephone: (519) 850-2917 Fax: (519) 661-3808