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New Zealand Science Teacher

Science Curriculum/Scientific Literacy

Young bridge-builders join forces

Secondary students test their bridge designs at the Aurecon competition.


A team testing at the Auckland competition (photo: Aurecon)

Early August is the time for bridge-testing.

The Aurecon Bridge Building Competition saw over 1000 Year 9 and 10 students from New Zealand and Australian schools busy designing bridges.

Registration for the event opened in February, with most schools running internal bridge building contests to determine the event entries.

A strong element of the competition was team work. Schools registered teams of three budding engineers, who were all sent the same kit of building materials, along with some strict design guidelines.

The kits consisted of 16 balsa wood sticks, 5 metres of string, quick-drying epoxy glue, and a cardboard tube.

 In early August, the teams came together at 10 locations across New Zealand and Australia for ‘Judging Day.’

The competition aims to provide a fun and challenging environment for students to challenge their teamwork, creative thinking, and innovation skills.

Design planning and sketching are also an important feature of the challenge, in order to efficiently use the materials given.

Aurecon marketing and communications assistant for Wellington, Alycia Pasco, says the event is run to promote engineering as a career to secondary students.

“We’re trying to encourage kids to get into engineering and choose their senior elective subjects in line with that.”

In addition, the bridge design process not only applies to bridge engineering, but to all engineering fields, such as mechanical and electrical engineering, she says.

The competitions were judged by engineers from Aurecon, as well as other experts in the industry. The bridges were tested for their load-bearing abilities and the weight of the load they could withstand was recorded.

The judges also assessed the workmanship, creativity, and visual appeal of the bridge design. Following this, the bridges were given a score out of five for each of the following elements:

-          Workmanship (joints, neatness, robustness)

-          Creativity (structural form, efficiency)

-          Aesthetics (proportion, form, appeal).

The Wellington event took place at Te Papa on August 6, 2013, and 23 teams from the region took part.

Winning teams and schools were awarded prize money. The event was supported by industry, including NZTA and HEB Construction.

This was the third time the event had taken place in Wellington.


2013 Wellington winners: Crazy Blooper, Newlands College (photo: Aurecon)

The results of the Wellington competition, held Tuesday August 6, were:

1st Prize, Newlands College, Crazy Blooper, 38kg

2nd Prize, Wellington High School, Sass Bandits, 33.5kg

3rd Prize, Hutt International Boys’ School, Red Hot Oompa Loompas, 30kg

Innovation Prize, Hutt International Boys’ School, Mitt Romney and Friends, 19.3kg


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