Bridge Building Competition

The winning team of the Vermont State Bridge Building Competition all dressed in blue holding the remnants of their popsicle stick bridge.

Lisa (he, him), the duly named Popsicle stick bridge constructed by People’s Academy Wild Wolves won the 2024 middle school bridge building competition earlier today, supporting 4,822 pounds before (literally) cracking under the pressure.

Hosted in Judd Hall on Vermont State University’s (VTSU) Randolph Center Campus, today marked the 10th almost-annual Middle School Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Competition (minus two COVID years), bringing together 110 middle school students from 8 schools throughout Vermont. Twenty-eight teams of students applied physics and engineering principles in the construction of bridges using only Popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue, tooth picks, and dental floss. These unique events not only provide students with the opportunity to experience what it is to be an engineer – designing structures to a set of specifications and then see them perform their function – but also represents a valuable teambuilding experiences – foster collaboration and curiosity, and inspire future generations of engineers to become the kinds of creative problem-solvers our society needs to thrive.

“This is such a positive and inspiring event for everyone – the competing teams and their coaches, VTSU students, staff, and faculty. The energy during these events is contagious!” said engineering professor and organizer John Diebold. “Not only is the Bridge Building Competition one of the highlights of our year, it’s also an invaluable opportunity for young learners to get real, hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) experience. This competition is one of those.

The Bridge Building Competition is conducted in partnership with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). VTrans generously provides financial support and provides engineers to act as judges. Student bridges are judged on aesthetics and originality of design, and presentation. Students predict the load their bridge will carry and their bridge is crushed by the Gordonator. With the actual load measured the strength-to-weight ratio is calculated.

Vermont State University’s civil and environmental engineering students help facilitate the event, supporting teams, collecting data, and running the Gordonator. VTSU students supporting the event today included Dominic Mazzilli a 2nd year Civil and Environmental Engineering student, who’s bridge, Truss-Ty supported over 1,400 pounds.