Popsicle stick bridges a roaring success

Technology and innovation beat out COVID-19

When the pandemic hit it looked like the 10th annual Sunshine Coast Popsicle Stick Bridge Contest was not going ahead; but then the organizers started working on ways to make it happen within provincial health guidelines. Bridge Contest chair John Leech said, “We heard from the community about the value of an activity during this crisis. A combination of technology and innovation came together to frame a solution for 2020, have some fun, and learn about STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.” 

Once again records were set for the number of kits distributed (306), number of bridges registered (97), and number of bridges tested (76). For the first time the Bridge Contest was streamed live, videotaped and posted. Winners hauled in $1,000 in cash and other prizes. 

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The organizers reported key challenges such as the safe distribution of bridge kits, collecting completed bridges, testing the bridges so that volunteers were safe, and broadcasting the event so builders could see their bridge being tested. A tall order, but solutions were found.

Ten businesses agreed to distribute the kits; collection sites for completed bridges were selected; and, completed bridges had several days to sit before testing, thus assuring safety from possible contamination.

The organizers learned that they would not be able to stream the testing together with the read-out of the pressure gauge so, knowing that builders like to see the numbers go up as pressure is added, the decision was made to test the bridges a day in advance and videotape the testing.

On test day the video was played, the pressure gauge was displayed, and a live commentary made it all feel “in the moment.” 

“I was happy that we could make this event happen this year because I know how much it is enjoyed by repeat builders,” enthused Lisa Murata, a member of the organizing team, chair of the event in 2019 and holder of the record for the bridge withstanding the greatest pressure (403.5kg of pressure). 

The prime sponsor of the event is Technology FESTIVAL (TechFEST), a relatively new organization on the Coast that sponsored the Bridge Contest in 2019 and supported a science fair earlier in 2020. Partners in the Bridge Contest included the Sea to Sky Branch of Engineers & Geoscientists BC and the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of BC. 

To view the video, review the test results and learn more about the contest go to Sunshine Coast Popsicle Bridge Contest on Facebook. 

– Submitted

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