Popsicle bridge contest held at Benton Elementary

Friday, January 13, 2012 | 8:50 p.m. CST; updated 2:26 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 14, 2012
August Kuefel, 8, pours sand into a bucket to test his popsicle bridge while his third-grader friends and some parents watch him Friday afternoon at the STEM lab of Benton Elementary School.

COLUMBIA — More than 50 third-grade students and nearly 20 parents who built bridges with just 100 popsicle sticks and one bottle of glue tested their creations on Friday.

The supplies were provided by the STEM lab at Benton Elementary School and the end results were put to the test Friday afternoon during a competition.

The competition came after the students and parents built the bridges during the 14-day winter break.

The STEM school model, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, was introduced this year to promote interest in those areas of study.

At the competition, two students were randomly called to put their bridges in front of the crowd.

The students filled buckets with sand that were then suspended by the bridges. Eight Columbia high school students volunteered to help with the competition. They measured the weight the bridges held and recorded it.

Third-grader Mason Hopkins said he learned about using triangles to make his bridge stronger from his teacher, John Gerhart.

"I made the bridge with my mom," said Mason. "It took me like 40 minutes. We only used 74 sticks."

Another student, August Kuefel, and his dad took a couple of days to plan and complete his bridge. It wound up holding 71 pounds and 2 ounces. He said he was excited when the bridge didn’t break.

Third-grader Alan Whittington  said he was nervous as he scooped sand into his bucket with a plastic cup.

His bridge groaned, but he continued to fill it until it broke.

Alan said his favorite part of the competition was watching the bridges break.

“I want to break it,” Alan said. “It was fun to break it, absolutely.”

Gerhart said many other schools have tried this competition before. But this is the first time for Benton to do the experiment. He said he believes the activity can inspire students' passion towards science and an understanding of math and engineering. 

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