Milford high students build record-setting bridgeNANCY BEAN FOSTER
Union Leader Correspondent
February 04. 2014 10:13PM
MILFORD — With some popsicle sticks and glue, three Milford High School students have constructed a record-setting bridge.
Max Ayotte, 16, Jackson Whitehouse, 17, and Tristan Kazo, 16, are the state winners of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s “TRAC” competition. The Transportation and Civil Engineering program is intended to give kids a better understanding of what goes into planning and designing the roads, bridges and highways in the Granite State.
Ayotte, Whitehouse and Kazo became part of the competition through teacher Frank Xydias’ engineering design class. Xydias created teams of three students each, and tasked the groups with designing and building the strongest bridge using the least amount of materials, while keeping within the parameters for length and height established by the DOT.
But before they started working, the class was visited by officials from the DOT who gave an in-depth presentation on the structure and design of bridges and the problems they encounter. Then it was time to build.
“We had an original plan, and we thought it would work,” said Ayotte, “but then we had to scrap it and reuse the materials to make a better one.”
“We overcomplicated it,” said Jackson.
With Kazo taking the lead designing the bridge on engineering software called AutoCAD, the team went back to the basics — an arch made with laminated popsicle sticks that gave the structure a lot of strength, and trusses angled at varying degrees to provide stability.
“The planning was definitely the hardest part of the project,” said Kazo.
“We took a typical bridge and added our own ideas to it,” said Ayotte.
And though there were awards given out at the competition for the most original design and the most classic design, Xydias’ team was going for strength.
“We wanted it to hold as much weight as it could,” said Jackson. But to win the strength competition meant the team had to take into consideration the weight of the bridge as well. The result of those two measurements is a ratio of bridge weight to load strength, and that’s where the team had the competition beat. The team’s bridge weighed just 580 grams but held 258 pounds.
“Our ratio was a record-breaker in the state,” said Jackson.
The team members said they may go back next year and try to break their own record, but they’re really not interested in making bridges full time. Though the goal of TRAC is to encourage kids to consider careers in transportation and civil engineering, Ayotte and Kazo want to be mechanical engineers, and Jackson is hoping to join the Navy, fly planes and study aeronautic engineering.
“I want to design the planes I fly,” he said.