Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Artist of the Week: Popsicle Sticks

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is Jake, would be engineer for NASA and trumpeter.

This week's profile picture was from a recital a few months ago. I had followed him into the ready room with camera in hand. Seeing me he struck this pose while warming up. He really enjoys playing the trumpet and has even agreed to additional lessons outside the class room. I think he wants to carry on in high school and beyond, hopefully in some sort of jazz band.

As for his engineering goals, he has joined the pre-engineering club in his school. Last year they were working on Future City projects and y'all know how that worked out. This semester they were creating popsicle stick bridges. The competition was last Sunday over at the Science Museum of Virginia and sponsored by the Richmond Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The rules were fairly straight forwarded. The bridge had to be at least 24 inches long, able to span a 22 inch gap, have a continuous road way and be able to pass a 3.5 inch cube along the entire length of the roadway. Only craft (popsicle) sticks and Elmer's white glue can be use. There are a few more details about overlap and such, but that is the essential idea.

The Bridge
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
And this little beauty was what Jake and his partner created.

From what I understand there were roughly 60 entries, 28 of which were in Jake's division. After the weighing in and evaluation, the bridges then got tested for their load bearing ability. The load Efficiency Rating would be calculated by the following formula: Load carried by the Bridge before Failure (lbs) divided by the Weight of the Bridge (lbs) squared.

This is when the fun really started. The bridge busting was done with a large frame supporting the bridge. A metal bar would be placed across the middle of the bridge on a load bearing surface. The load weight was adjusted using a pulley system with a load spring attached to a digital weight display. The bridges fell into roughly three catagories, the lightweight group (usualy very bare bones affairs) that would collapse at about ten pounds, the mid-range which could handle 50 to just under 100 lbs, and the super loads- 100 lbs plus.

I'm happy to report that Jake's team had created a super-load bridge that made it all the way to 200 pounds. There were only three other bridges that exceeded that weight (One of which was disqualified for incorrect construction. Though it was awesome to behold, holding steady at 400+ pounds). However load capacity was not the be all end all, the weight of the bridge was critical. They ended up with a very respectable 6th place finish after the Efficiency Ratings were calculated. They got 211, first place was well over a thousand and the monster 400+ lb bridge didn't even come close the breaking 100.

I'm proud to say they designed a built their bridge on their own. All I did was measure up the roadway and point out that it need to be at least 3 1/2 inches square.

Good job guys, it was a very well made bridge and was also pleasing to the eye.

But I still find popsicle sticks to be the bane of my existence.

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