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Internet-based bridge design contest launched for students

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The free Bridge Designer software allows students to design, test and optimize highway bridges, just as practicing engineers do. Students will use this software to participate in the Lehigh Valley Bridge Design Contest.
The free Bridge Designer software allows students to design, test and optimize highway bridges, just as practicing engineers do. Students will use this software to participate in the Lehigh Valley Bridge Design Contest.

Starting Feb. 26, a new competition will provide an opportunity for local middle school and high school students in the Greater Lehigh Valley and beyond to win cash prizes while learning about engineering.

Sponsored by the Lehigh Valley Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers and ArtsQuest, the Lehigh Valley Bridge Design Contest is an internet-based competition in which student teams design structurally accurate highway bridges using an educational software package called the Bridge Designer.

This software is a simplified version of the computer programs used by structural engineers to design real-world bridges.

It can be downloaded for free from the contest website (www.bridgedesigner.org) and runs on Windows and Mac computers.

PRELIMINARY ROUNDS

The contest will begin with a qualifying round held Feb. 26-March26.

During this period, teams download the Bridge Designer software, use it to design and test a bridge based on realistic requirements and then submit their designs by email for judging.

To be eligible for judging, each design must pass a simulated load test performed by the Bridge Designer software. For designs that pass the load test, the basis for judging is low cost.

During the qualifying round, teams may enter as many times as they like. An online scoreboard will allow contestants to see which teams are leading at any given time.

FINALS

On Saturday, April 7, the top 10 teams from the qualifying round will compete in a two-hour final round hosted by ArtsQuest at the Banana Factory Arts and Education Center in Bethlehem – when winners will be determined.

Each member of the top high school team will receive a $300 scholarship. Each member of the top middle school team will receive a $100 scholarship.

“We’re offering this contest to provide Lehigh Valley students with an opportunity to learn about engineering by actually engaging in the engineering design process,” said Stephen Ressler, LVASCE’s contest director. “Along the way, the kids will also learn a lot about bridges and how they work.”

Schools in the counties of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton and Schuylkill – as well as others in northeastern Pennsylvania – are eligible. Complete rules and entry procedures are provided on the Lehigh Valley Bridge Design Contest website at www.bridgedesigner.org/lehighvalley.

Note: This article was submitted by the Lehigh Valley Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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