Smashing results

Record participation for annual bridge-building event

karen herland

Onlookers wait for the Crusher to best the Moncton University contender in this year’s bridge building competition. The team walked away with third prize in what was the biggest competition to date.

Photo by sabrina ratté - IITS creative media services

Toothpicks, popsicle sticks, Lepage’s white glue and dental floss may sound like the makings of a kindergarten project. However, if that project is going to face the Crusher, you know you’re actually dealing with Concordia’s 22nd Annual Troitsky Bridge Building competition.

“Every year we see new ways of using dental floss. It’s really quite amazing,” Mathieu Vincelli said. Vincelli is president of the Concordia chapter of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (CSCE), which hosts the event.

Forty teams from Calgary, Vermont, Quebec, the Maritimes and Ontario participated. “It keeps growing every year, but I think we’ve finally reached the maximum that we can have. We may have to scale back next year,” Vincelli said.

Teams must comply with an ever-growing list of rules determining everything from the tools they use to construct their bridges (yes to X-acto knives, no to drills) to the length of time they can spend assembling the pieces.

“We add new rules each year to make things harder for the teams,” Vincelli said.

“We’ll probably rewrite the rules over the summer,” CSCE VP Internal Kurt Cabral acknowledged. The rewrite should clarify some of the questions that came up this year, like the acceptable dimensions for Popsicle sticks.

Teams are subjected to two sets of tests. Concordia Professor Ashutosh Bagchi, Albert Robitaille, from the Vermont Technical College and junior engineer Patrick Caron from Sintra Inc. judged the more subjective areas of originality, aesthetics and presentation.

Meanwhile teams had to provide detailed specs on their bridges before building them. Any discrepancy between estimated and real dimensions or capabilities was counted against them. Complicated calculations determine the appropriate load for the piece.

Finally, the designs are subjected to the Mechtronix Crusher, capable of exerting 10 tons of pressure. Most designs can withstand only a fraction of that punishment, Cabral said.

Cegep de Chicoutimi nabbed the first prize for the third year in a row. Their design crumbled just shy of a half-ton of pressure. McMaster University had three teams in the top 10, and Ryerson University took two of the 10 spots. The rest of the top places were taken by Moncton University, the University of New Brunswick, Queen’s University, and, of course, one of our home teams

The event took place on March 10 and highlights were aired the next week on the Discovery Channel’s Daily Planet.