‘Knot Right Bridges’ two-time national champs

By David Fleet
The Brandon High School Senior STEM Pathways team Knot Right Bridges consisting of Maddie Misenar, Rylee Sobecki, and Paige Thwing once again qualified to participate at both the State of Michigan Department of Transportation- Transportation and Civil Engineering (MDOT- TRAC) and the National American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials-Transportation and Civil Engineering (AASHTO-TRAC) Bridge Competition.
The Knot Right Bridges team represented the Brandon Community back in 2018 when they placed second as freshmen attending the national AASHTO-TRAC competition in Salt Lake City. Their Tied-Arch bridge in 2018 held 230 pounds and they performed a perfect presentation (100/100). The positive experience led the team to set the goal of competing at the senior level in 2022. Unfortunately, the AASHTO program canceled their invitation of six teams to travel to New Orleans this year due to heavy pandemic restrictions in the city. On March 29, Knot Right Bridges performed their presentation only via Zoom during the online competition. The top three honors all went to Michigan teams with team Knot Right Bridges placing third.
From April 18-19, Misenar, Sobecki and Thwing traveled to Grand Rapids to compete at the state level competition. Their team presentation was once again flawless with a 100/100 score. Unfortunately, a joint on the decking of their bridge gave out prematurely dropping their strength to weight ratio drastically. Of the 32 competing teams, Knot Right Bridges placed ninth overall.
The goal this year, State (MDOT) and National (AASHTO), for 11-12 graders was to develop a Self Anchored Suspension Bridge that would carry as much weight as possible while weighing as little as possible (strength-to-weight ratio). Each team had to research the bridge type, design and conduct experiments to test for strength-to-weight ratio, and then redesign a bridge resulting from those experiments. Students are limited to the balsa wood, kite string, and specialty glue provided by TRAC. Competing teams were required to develop a report portfolio describing the design and testing of the bridge and create design drawings using Bentley PowerDraft and other 3D CAD software. This portfolio determined the qualification for both state and national competitions.

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