Iowa bridge building contest promotes STEM careers

The Iowa Department of Transportation and the Institute for Transportation (InTrans) at Iowa State University co-sponsored this year’s Ready, Set, Build! Bridge Building Competition, an event aimed at promoting to children careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The competition includes teams in four age groups as well as a family category that invites parents to participate.

“The state of Iowa has taken an active role in fostering STEM interest in the state’s youth,” says Sandra Larson, director of the Iowa DOT’s Systems Operations Bureau. By allowing kids and their families an engaging way to experience situations similar to what transportation professionals encounter, we hope to further spark enthusiasm in STEM-related careers, which make up a large portion of the careers at the Iowa DOT.”

There were 75 participants and 24 teams in this year’s competition at the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines. Teams were tasked with designing and building a bridge in three hours using a combination of materials including balsa wood, wooden clothespins, craft sticks, hot glue and string.

The categories and winners include:

Highest structural efficiency

  • Grades 1-3: Lava Shooters (66 lbs.)
  • Grades 4-6: Bumble Squirt (73 lbs.)
  • Grades 7-8: 4H ExSPANsion (63 lbs.)
  • Family: Paris Truss (160 lbs.)

Most Innovative

  • Grades 1-3: Cousin Construction
  • Grades 4-6: Brookview Builders
  • Grades 7-8: 4H ExSPANsion
  • Family: Fat Man & Little Girl

Truss Teamwork Award

  • Grades 1-3: Speedy Builders
  • Grades 4-5: Pink Fluffy Unicorns
  • Grades 7-8: 4H ExSPANsion
  • Family: The Bridge Builders