The West Virginia Bridge Design & Build Contest, which challenges middle school and high school students to see who can design the best bridge, has been featured in the trade publication the AASHTO Journal.
Sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT) for the past 22 years, the final round of the competition was held Saturday, April 1, 2023, at WVU Tech’s Beckley campus. Thirty-eight students in grades six through 12 made the final cut, testing their computer software design skills and model bridge building skills with balsa wood mockups of their designs.
The AASHTO Journal is published by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials. Featuring the bridge design contest – designed to interest young men and women in careers in engineering – exposed the contest to a national audience.
“This is a great way to get more students interested in engineering,” WVDOT chief technology officer Hussein Elkhansa told the AASHTO Journal. “But it is also a way to get more of them interested in the transportation industry as well. Even if they don’t end up becoming engineers, we use this contest to let them know we at WVDOT have all sorts of career options open to them.”
“The computer software part of the competition tests the student’s ability to develop a lowest cost bridge with the highest structure strength capable of handling the specified traffic flow,” explained Dr. Horng-Jyh “Tigra” Yang, associate professor and geotechnical engineer, WVU Institute of Technology’s civil engineering department. “Moving to the three-dimensional part of the contest poses a bit of a challenge,” he said. “This is where you are building a bridge in the ‘real world’ and where the students are applying the structural knowledge they’ve learned to this point.”