Student teams from around the district tackled this year’s ‘STEM Design Challenge’ called the ‘Toothpick Bridge Challenge’ for the past few months (either at school, virtually, or a combination), with the final results determined in late February. This year’s team challenge was to build a bridge from only toothpicks and glue that is able to support a maximum amount of weight. The weight was a suspended five-gallon bucket, in which up to 20 quarts of water were individually added until either the bridge structure failed or the bridge was able to hold the full five-gallon (20 quart) volume capacity of the suspended bucket (41.7 pounds).
Facilitated by the district’s gifted education program (Quest), the STEM Design Challenge has been a substitute for the annual ‘Mind A-Mazes’ district challenge the past couple of years, and has given students around the peninsula an opportunity to work collaboratively on a STEM competition which they could work on at home or school. This year’s challenge was created and coordinated by Quest teachers Brandon Young and Brian Bailey. Teams were required to follow a variety of specific rules for construction and testing, with each team then submitting a single video submission of their bridge weight test results.
Students were encouraged to research various bridge design types, specifically trusses, when designing their bridges. Geometric principles of design (including measurement of angles) and physical principles such as tension and compression were also explored by numerous teams during the research, design, construction, and testing portions of the challenge. Whether teams’ bridges held a few quarts or over 20 quarts of water, they all were able to attempt a challenging engineering task and share their results with other teams from around the district. Some of the winning teams are even designing additional weight tests to see just how much MORE their toothpick bridges can hold beyond the 5 gallons of water – adding barbells, bricks, or even people!
Out of 30 team entries from around the KPBSD, the top results and winning teams whose bridges were all able to hold the maximum five-gallon water bucket weight results are:
1st place teams (tie) – Elementary Division
Nikiski North Star Elementary – “M&M’s” Morgan Hooper, Mia Settlemyer, Isabella Durfee
Mountain View Elementary – “Maci and Marley” Maci Miller, Marley Mesa
Nikiski North Star Elementary – “Gold Nuggets” Emily Porter, Autumn Warner, Logan Kimbell
1st place teams (tie) – Middle/Senior Division
Nikiski Middle – “Baffingly beautiful babbling bridge building bailey bros” Rainy Jenness, Ryenne Douglas, Sadie Porter, Eden Nightingale, Halle Blades
Kenai Middle – “Team Lucario” Dylan Fry, Wyatt Hansen, Oscar Marcou, Elloree Smith
Nikiski Middle – “Corn on the Cob” Adalynn Choate, Milly Hornung
Thank you to Brian Bailey for contributing this story, and the coaches, judges, students, and everyone who assisted and supported the teams!