Arlington students take three top spots in Vermont Technical College Bridge Building Competition

Arlington students with the remains of their bridges. Top row: Harley Burdick, Kierstyn Hess, Chase Hoyt, Tori Morse, and Colleen Blomberg. Bottom row: Alyssa Harrington, Juliana Gabriel, Shy Morse, Isabella Ward, and Veronica Burgess.

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ARLINGTON — Students from Arlington Memorial High School snagged three of the top five spots, including first and second place, in the fourth annual Vermont Technical College Bridge Building Competition last week.

Arlington sent three teams to the competition, and each placed highly. Harley Burdick, Veronica Burgess, and Tori Morse, designed and built a bridge that held 929 pounds, earning them first place. Placing second in the competition were Juliana Gabriel, Alyssa Harrington, and Isabella Ward, whose bridge held 534.4 pounds. The third Arlington team, made up of Kierstyn Hess, Chase Hoyt, and Shy Morse placed fifth with a bridge that could hold 364.4 pounds. The first place team was also given the award for best structural efficiency, given to the bridge with the best ratio of weight held to weight of bridge at almost 300:1.

Advisor and science teacher Karen Schroeder said that students in her Earth Science class participate in the contest each year. "The students did a great job and were excellent representatives of Arlington," she said. "The competition was fun and exciting. They just crushed it!"

Students from Arlington fared well at the third annual competition last year as well, when a team made up of Parker Blomberg, Austin McAffry, and Lane Nolan took second place and a team made up of Chloe Moran, Damien Burdick, and Tanner Robinson took third.

Morse said that they spent about eight weeks working on the designs and building the bridges, mostly in class. In terms of the competition itself, Morse admitted that she expected it to be boring, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. "It was actually really fun to see all the different bridges and how much weight they could hold," she said, adding that she enjoyed the whole experience and would recommend the class to future students.

The competition was held at Judd Hall on VTC's Randolph campus. In all, 44 teams from around the state participated. Students arrived for registration at 8:45 on Friday morning, and judging took place from 9:45 to 11:30. The bridges were constructed in advance of the competition, out of popsicle sticks, Elmer's glue, tooth picks, and dental floss. While on campus the students were given lunch and the opportunity to tour the campus.

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"Bridges are judged on aesthetics and originality of design, presentation, ultimate load carrying capacity, strength-to-weight ratio, and predicted failure point," according to the contest description.

Schroeder said that this is the second year her class has participated in the competition, but that she has always kept an eye out for similar engineering competitions around the state. She said she started by showing videos about bridge design and having the students study historical designs. She said that last year's competition had taught the students some "do's an don'ts" of buiilding with Popsicle sticks, but that other than that the students worked entirely based on their own designs.

The class was also visited by John Novelli, of Novelli Engineering of Shaftsbury, who gave them some design pointers.

The students on the first place team will each receive $2,000 scholarships to attend VTC, and the students on the second place team will receive $1,500 scholarships.

Derek Carson can be reached at, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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