Tough as Sticks: Troitsky Bridge Building Competition

The sound of cheering, clapping, loud music and wood cracking were enough to lure you in this weekend to one of the most anticipated events of Concordia’s Engineering Week—the Troitsky Bridge Building Competition.

The competition, which took place in the Hall Building, is every engineering student’s dream. Using popsicle sticks, toothpicks, white glue and floss, participants create bridges and test their durability with a crushing machine that puts pressure on the structures.

“It really brings the academics and the team spirits together,” says Micha Kindarji, president of the Troitsky Competition, organized by Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. “It brings people together while testing everything they learned in school, how they apply.”

The teams have to be very judicious when building their bridge as there are certain criteria they must follow. Bridges must be as light as possible and sustain the maximum possible weight. In addition, there is a specific width to height ratio that they cannot surpass, they must have a clear span and a deck as if cars could go through them.

“I chose to do an A-frame bridge because it has a point loading system which is the most efficient,” says Erin Hemm, member of the team Troitsky Centre for Kids Who Can’t Read Good from Carleton University. “Obviously, we lose points in creativity because we are using the most efficient type of bridge for competition, but we took a similar bridge to last year’s, and it went really well.”

All bridges are measured and weighed before the actual crushing ceremony as a predicted mode of failure and load is estimated. Bridges that do not comply with the criteria are disqualified from the competition.

“We had a good presentation, we just weighed in and had no penalties, so it’s up to this guy right here to do the rest of the job,” said Daniel Lee Kim while pointing to his bridge, the product of 150 hours of work. His team Don Cherry Poppers from McMaster University came in second place.

The Troitsky Bridge Building Competition celebrated its 31st birthday this year with 36 teams from universities across Canada, U.S. and Europe. The number of teams has grown by about 10 in the past five years. As far as the work that is presented each year, Kindarji says it’s getting more and more innovative.

“The core of these students are engineers and engineering is always about innovation. You have to see some of the bridges,” says Kindarji. “These are popsicle sticks, things that you can crack with your hands and [students] manage to make things that are outstanding and beautiful at the same time.”

Video by Johanna Pellus and Evgenia Choros

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