Students in West Virginia middle schools and high schools have until March 1 to enter the 2023 West Virginia Bridge Design and Build Contest, hosted by West Virginia Department of Transportation for more than 20 years. Registration is entirely free and available on the website wvbridgedesignandbuildcontest.com.
“We have schools that have come back to the competition for 20 years and counting,” said Jennifer Dooley, of WVDOT’s Public Relations Division. “With WVDOT, we have scholarships, Co-Op programs, tuition reimbursement, and training opportunities; backing up our dedication to being the best educated WVDOT in the country. The competition helps us reach students with the message that there are great careers available in their home state.”
The competition focuses on engineering, using real world design principles in the software with which students design their bridges; however, Dooley stresses that the competition is not just for students who already feel they would be good at engineering.
“All students are encouraged to give it a try,” said Dooley. “This contest can reach any school, any student, and it’s a level playing field. It’s exciting to see a seventh grader give it a try and find out they can do it. Students need to know that it’s okay to be a beginner and start where they are. This contest teaches them about engineering without expecting them to already know.”
Secretary of Transportation Jimmy Wriston, P.E. served as a classroom volunteer in the early years of the competition and developed a process for coaching West Virginia’s students that blends hard work with creativity. In 2016, Wriston created a tutorial for students outlining a step-by-step process for using the software. That tutorial, which starts at the beginning and moves logically through steps, is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E84yQRxzee4&t=202s.
The qualifying round of the contest will end on March 1. Competing in the contest to qualify for the final competition is open to middle school and high school students, but siblings, families and teachers are encouraged to submit designs as well in open competition just for fun. Participation in the contest is entirely free, with software available for download on the website wvbridgedesignandbuildcontest.com.
Students in grades 6-12 attending a West Virginia public, private, or home school may enter individually or in teams of two. For teams of two, the team captain should be the only one to register. The team captain must include the contact information for oneself, one’s parents, and one’s teacher.
“Teachers can email us at any time until February 17 to request volunteer assistance,” said Dustin Feazell, Transportation Engineering Technologist with the WVDOT Information Technology Division. “It helps students build the foundation for what they want to do in the future.”
Approximately the top 25 individuals/teams with the lowest cost designs will be invited to participate in the finals, hosted this year at the WVU Institute of Technology Campus in Beckley.
Finalists will be notified by March 3 with an invitation and details of the finals event. Finalist notification deadline is March 10. The finals event is scheduled for April 1.
Last year, more than 80 schools and over 200 individual teams participated. All finalists will be awarded cash prizes between $100 and $400 plus. There is also a prize for the Most Aesthetic Bridge.
To get details, read the rules, register, and download the bridge design software, go to the contest website.
With work continuing in all 55 counties across the state, the West Virginia Division of Highways and the West Virginia Department of Transportation remind the public of the importance of keeping everyone safe in work zones by keeping “Heads up; phones down!”
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