Engineering students impress in bridge building competition

By Sarah Seatterm, Staff Writer — Pencils, paper, balsa wood, glue and preparation are what assisted four of GlenOak’s engineering students to place in the top 10 of 100 students in a bridge building competition.

This competitive event provided high school students the challenge of building a bridge using only balsa and wood glue to span a distance of 24 inches. Engineering students from all over the Akron-Cleveland area went to Case Western Reserve University on Feb. 24 to test their construction skills and put their knowledge of design and civil engineering to the test.

“We had to design bridges using the principles of compression and tension [exemplified by the trusses on the bridges] to maximize our load to mass ratio,” engineering student John Bodenschatz said.

These young engineers built 24-inch bridges by creating light-weight models that could hold a substantial amount of weight. In order to complete this task engineering teacher, James Walbeck had to do a fair amount of preparation in order to place at this competition.

“I took the students to Mount Union to test different wood glue samples before the competition to find the best glue for the kids to use,” Walbeck said.

Although this trip to Mount Union to test wood glue may not seem as if it could impact the bridge very much, but when only two materials are allowed to be used for the construction of the bridge it is imperative to find the best glue.

Walbeck has competed in this competition for a number years, and each year he has done very well. This is in part to the fact that he is one of the few teachers that preps his students before the competition.

“Before competing, Mr. Walbeck had us practice drawing our bridges, which allowed for us to brainstorm different designs and structures that we could use for our models,” engineering student Elliot Rose said.

This hard work that the students and Walbeck put in, paid off when four of the engineers placed in the top ten of 100 at the Case Western contest.

[Updated Aug. 20, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]