Saturday, 3 March 2007


by Jason Ettorre, EIT

To challenge the creative and constructive minds of children, the Scarborough Chapter of PEO, held its 4th  Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Contest successfully on Saturday March 3rd, 2007, in the Council Chamber of the Scarborough Civic Centre,  This event was organized to promote awareness of an engineering education as a career choice among junior students as well as creativeness and team building while having fun.   

This year’s event hosted 72 teams, approximately 180 students from both Public and Catholic schools in two Groups – Grade 4-6 and Grade 7-8, the split between junior grades and senior grades. 

The bridges were to be required to be made of ordinary Popsicle sticks and weigh less than 300 grams. The bridges were judged against the following criteria: student presentation and technical explanation, creativity, construction quality, construction technique and aesthetics. Following judging, the bridges were tested to destruction to determine the maximum load bearing capability by an engineer-built load testing machine. The strongest bridges withstood 1640N, 1630N, and 1590N, before breaking.

The process of registration, photography, inspection, judging, load testing and certificate printing were handled at stations equipped with notebook computers. Multimedia display instruments provided the audience with the following information: a live view of the destructive testing, a real time display of the current team and performance rankings, sponsor and volunteer information, and the queue order to organize the team flow.   

Several VIPs were in attendance, including MPPs Hon. Mary Anne Chambers (Scarborough East; Minister of Children and Youth Services), Bas Balkissoon (Scarborough Rouge River), and City Councillor Chin Lee (Ward 42 – Scarborough Rouge Riber), Peter DeVita, MBA, P.Eng., OSPE Board, Media coverage from CityTV in Toronto and Centennial College’s Guardian newspaper was present.
This year we added a new component called “failure analysis” to the competition. One professional engineer, inspected the bridge that was tested and provided the team members with the reasons for failure and ideas for improvement. The students appreciated it very much.

Below are reviews from two competitors:

Review by Caroline D’Souza, Junior from St. Ignatius of Loyola Catholic School

Name of the bridge Carolina Moon
Length 575mm (57.5cm)
Height 160mm (16cm)
Width 115mm (11.5cm)
Time Taken to build 8-10 hours
Popsicle Sticks used 170 sticks
Tested Weight Over 10 kg

Hello! My name is Caroline D’Souza, and I am a participant in the 2007 Popsicle Bridge Building Contest. I am in Grade 5. My teacher’s name is Ms. Kimberly Anthony from St. Ignatius of Loyola Gifted Centre where I attend one day withdrawal Gifted Program. Rest of the days I attend St. Dominic Savio School. Ms. Anthony is a wonderful teacher and told me about this contest.

The name of my bridge is “Carolina Moon.” I chose this name for my bridge because my mom calls me by that name and there is a song called “Carolina Moon”.  I thought it’s a good name for the bridge. When I heard about the bridge building competition I got really excited. I had a lot of ideas at first, but they all seemed almost impossible to make. I knew that I could do it though. I kept feeling like I had to change my design, but it ended up great when we tested the bridge at home. First my parents tested it by placing the bridge in between two wooden side tables and then they placed on top of the bridge a heavy dictionary of 2 kg and a big bag of rice weighing 8 kg and some more things. Then my parents realized that we had to test by suspending in the centre of the bridge from the bottom. So they tied a string from the centre of the bridge and tied a plastic bag and then placed a heavy bag of rice of 8kg in it and it was amazing to see that my Popsicle bridge could hold all that weight. My favorite part of this competition is looking at the great bridge I built, and even if it does break, I could always make another one and will keep trying to make stronger and sturdier bridges with other beautiful designs.

The thing that annoyed me the most while I was building the bridge was when the Popsicle sticks that we bought were bent or broken which I noticed only after sticking it with the glue and when it was dry.  But I found a solution to that. When I did it again, I checked every Popsicle stick and put aside the ones which were not good.

My bridge is 57 cm wide. It is built with I beams in the middle and the sides of the bridge. I held most of the bridge together with I beams because I beams are good for bearing heavy load in structures.

Thanks to the Professional Engineers Ontario for organizing this contest. I cannot wait till next year for another competition where I plan to do a great bridge. This competition has inspired me to learn more about structures and bridges.

Review by Lynn Tay, Senior from J.B.Tyrrell S.P.S.

On March 3rd of 2007, a group of eager students from many schools met at the Scarborough Civic Center for the 4th annual Bridge Building Contest hosted by a group of Canadian Engineers. Along with the 58 students present, came many bridges of different designs, from truss bridges, to arch bridges. Each bridge was unique and different in its own way.

The bridge that our group made was a warren truss bridge, along with an arch bridge on top. We researched and found that by putting 2 different types of bridges on top of each other, it would make it stronger. We used materials from drills, to wilted Popsicle sticks. We knew that, when the day came, the bridge would be destroyed. Throughout the period it took to build our bridge, we had to overcome many difficulties. There were problems such as the weight of our bridge, and the strength of the base of our bridge. We overcame all of those difficulties to come up with the bridge that was presented to the judges on Saturday of March 3rd. Before testing the bridge, we were very anxious, awaiting the outcome of our bridge. In the end, the base failed to hold up all the weight and broke under the force of 1060N, leaving the two side frames in tact.

Building the bridge has given us many opportunities to use our engineering skills that we didn’t even know existed. It made our minds work twice as hard and we had to apply skills developed over our school years to successfully fulfill all of the given requirements.

Going into this year’s bridge building contest, it was the first time I was exposed to the fact that engineering could be so much fun! I observed many different designs and techniques used by other students and have stored those ideas in my mind in time for next year’s competition. Going into this competition, I kept in mind the fact that winning was not everything.  I knew that the purpose of this competition was to expose students to engineering, and for us to be able to the many overcome technical problems that we would encounter. Also, we needed to develop the skill of being able to work as a team to make the best possible end result.

At the competition, we not only tested our bridges and shared our knowledge of how we built them, we also learnt about famous bridges, and the fact about why engineers wear metal rings on their finger. I really enjoyed this competition and would like to thank the engineers for putting forth such a tremendous effort to make this event successful. This contest has made me realize that everybody can do anything they want if they just put their minds and their hearts into it. This was a fun and educational experience for me! I know without a shadow of doubt that I’ll be joining this extraordinary competition again next year!

Scarborough Civic CentreScarborough Civic Centre
150 Borough Drive, Toronto, ON M1P 4N7
North-West of McCowan Rd and Ellesmere Rd.
Public Transit: subway to Kennedy, then L.R.T. to Scarborough Town Centre
Driving: From Hwy401, take the McCowan South exit.
Follow this map. We will be at the center.

Helpful information for teachers and contestants

In 2006, a teacher David Lam kindly allowed us to take these pictures of the aids he had in class to help his students understand the physical requirements.

The model shows the relationship of the bridge with the surroundings and how the cars use it to cross the river in the canyon. It is important to note that the canyon is 500mm in width. Your  bridge must be larger than the canyon, or it will fall into the river and float away!

David also made a template out of wood that allows the students to quickly and easily check if their bridges meet the main physical specifications.

More detailed pictures are available from the menu at the top of this page.

Most importantly, please read and follow all the rules!

We will once again proudly hold our Bridge Building Competition for Scarborough students in grades 3-8. Last year, we welcomed over 80 teams of junior and intermediate students. Our best, enthusiastic and brightest contestants built Popsicle stick bridges that held over 1200N (122kgf) before breaking!

Volunteers are needed to handle over 350 students, teachers, and parents on the event day, including registration, computer entry, judging, ushering, bridge testing, and more.

You are encouraged to volunteer your expertise and lend a hand. Contact Jason Ettorre at 416-569-9925 or jason. Please join us for an exciting day of networking, learning, engineering, and bridge building fun.

2007 Popsicle Stick Bridge Competition

Saturday, 3 March 2007
10:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m
Scarborough Civic Centre
Grades 3–6 and 7–8

1st  2nd and 3rd place prizes will be awarded for:
◦    The highest load bearing performance
◦    Judge’s Design Award

Each contestant will also receive a Participation Certificate!
National Engineering Week logo

Would you like one day to build a bridge like the 13km Confederation Bridge, linking New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island? It is a marvel of Canadian Engineering!

Confederation Bridge

We would like to see you with your bridge at the competition.

To register, please fill in a registration form and email it to: bridge email address
The registration form, contest rules and other forms required for joining this event are available from the menu on the top right of this page. Please read the rules carefully.
A section has been added
to help you test and qualify your bridge.

The latest date for registrations is extended to 16 February 2007. If we have space, we will accept registrations after this date. Please note that documents in production cannot be changed to include last minute entries.
The teams of the waiting list (before 9 February 2007) have been moved to the registered list and a new waiting list is started.

There is a limit to the number of teams based on the room capacity of 350 people. Registration is on a first come, first served basis. Initially, entries will be limited to two teams per grade in each school (two teams from all grade 3, two teams from all grade 4, etc.), plus individually entered teams not associated with a school registration. If space permits, additional school teams will be selected from the waiting list.

Previous year's competitions reached their capacity limit and so some teams were disappointed.
Therefore, register all your teams early!