By David Fleet
The Brandon “Knot Right” team was right on last week with a second place finish at the annual National Bridge competition.
The Brandon High School freshmen team of Rylee Sobecki, Paige Thwig and Maddie Misenar, traveled to Park City, Utah to take on the nations top high school bridge builders hosted by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. The National Bridge Challenge is part of the Transportation and Civil Engineering or TRAC program — an educational program that integrates science, math, and social science with the goal of encouraging students to pursue engineering and other science-based fields.
For the past three years, a Brandon High School team has qualified for the national TRAC Bridge Building competition—where just six teams nationwide qualify each year. Those Brandon teams have consisted of three freshman girls.
To qualify for the national bridge competition, students research bridge structure, and apply their findings with the CAD software, used by many civil engineers to create an original bridge design. Teams must then submit a proposal on their design, including the scientific principles that drove their design decisions.
The national competition featured a “breaking bridges” segment where the design is subject to a weight test.
“Our bridge was one of the first bridges that held a lot (of weight),” said Paige Thwing. “Everyone was sitting on the edge of their seats.”
“Our bridge hit a final load of 230 pounds,” said Thwing, who plans on a career in engineering after high school. “Although our bridge held the most weight, the Northville bridge, held only 201 pounds but they had a lighter bridge than ours so when you divide it out their ratio was greater.”
The team earned a shot at the national championship last April when the all left handed Brandon Knot Right team submitted a proposal on a Tied Arch Bridge to secure their invitation for the ninth and tenth grade division in state competition in Grand Rapids, against teams from all over Michigan.
The bridge building team is coached by Pauline Bandlow.