Area students build bridges


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  • Samantha Brummel shares pictures of various locations in which she has worked.






  • Team World Champions test their bridge with a brick.




  • Team World Champions won the competition by creating a bridge that held 16 pounds.




  • Michael Valesco and Jordan Perez work to build their bridge.



WANTAGE — On November 30th 58 4th and 5th grade students from across Sussex County participated in the Sussex County Gifted and Talented Consortium Bridges Competition.

Not like many other competitions where the students compete as school teams, the bridges competition paired students from across different school districts to encourage the students to problem solve, work together, and create a bridge as a team.

The Bridges Competition has had a long history throughout the county but had not been run for 9 nine years. Superintendent Jennifer Cenatiempo of Lafayette and teachers from across the county worked together to bring this event back for our students.

“Within school districts we are constantly working to create opportunities to support the diverse needs of all learners including students identified as gifted and talented learners,” noted Cenatiempo. "This event provided a critical opportunity to foster divergent thinking and creativity within a project based experience that was tailored to structural engineering concepts.”

The development of this year’s Bridges event was a team effort with Michele Sealander from Hamburg, Beth Voris and Kyle Mirena from Green, Kelly Fedynich from Franklin Borough, Alice Sensale from Lafayette, Robin Niemis from Frankford, Wendy Wesighan from Sandyston-Walpack, and Lynda Campana from Sussex-Wantage. The planning meetings were hosted at the Lafayette Township School District. Teachers met several times to design the event and plan for the students. The actual Bridges Competition was hosted at the High Point Regional High School. STEM Supervisor Brian Drelick work with Cenatiempo to plan for the logistics of such a large scale event that included students from 7 different districts.

The event began with the students working together to create a team logo and name. The students had 45 minutes to meet their new teammates, formulate a team logo and name, and design a poster board representing their team. The students were provided with an opportunity to share their team logo and name with the group.

Next the students were provided with the opportunity to hear from two engineers in the field. The first presenter, Tyler Frisch, works for Thor Labs. Frisch provided the students with a powerpoint and discussion about general engineering practices, the need for engineers, and the type of work that Thor Labs does. The students saw a video of the use of a powerful laser to clean rust off of metal items.

Next the students listened to Samantha Brummell, P.E. Brummell was a graduate of Sussex Wantage in 2004, HPRHS in 2008 and went on to college at Cornell University. A 2012 graduate of the Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering program and 2013 graduate of the Master’s of Engineering, Structural Engineering program, Brummell is a licensed professional engineer in the state of New York and works for Sererud Associates NYC. Brummell shared images of herself at NASA and on rooftops doing the work of an engineer. Her presentation focused on always striving and working hard to reach your goals. Brummell explained the need for engineers in the world and provided the students with two demonstrations on how structures are made more secure by utilizing a variety of building materials and structures.

After the speakers and presentations were completed the students had a lunch break and then began the building process with their teammates. The students were requested to create a blueprint of their bridge design. Student groups were provided with 4 toilet paper rolls, two pieces of poster board, 1 roll of tape and ten straws for their design. The bridges were required to be 22 inches in length, 5-7 inches wide, and have a span of 13-15 inches between the supports on the bottom. Students had an hour to build their bridges with those materials.

Parents were invited to attend the bridge building component of the event. Select students from High Point circulated and supported the elementary students during the bridge building while others videotaped and documented the event for a media class assignment.

The event culminated in the testing of the bridges. The objective was to hold the greatest amount of weight. All of the students, teachers, and parents watched as the bridges were tested one by one. The tension was palpable with the addition of each pound to the individual structures. 1 pound boxes of pasta and 4 pound bricks were used to test the structures. The winning team designed a bridge that could hold 16 pounds.

Students on the winning team included Sofia Keller of Frankford, Kaitlyn Simiondis of Sussex Wantage, Michael Velasco of Green, and Jordan Perez of Frankford.

According to Cenatiempo, the Sussex County Gifted and Talented Consortium will continue to plan events to empower learners to work collaboratively and solve problems.

“We are thrilled with the Bridges Competition and are excited to plan additional opportunities for all learners in our county!” Cenatiempo said.




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