Middle school students build bridges and friendships at URI transportation camp

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Students from Coventry, Pawtucket, Wakefield, Woonsocket

win bridge building contest

KINGSTON, R.I. – July 25, 2008 — Seventeen middle school students recently completed a two-week Summer Transportation Institute at the University of Rhode Island where they learned about various modes of transportation, as well as transportation construction and transportation-related careers.

“There is a growing need for qualified professionals in transportation fields,” said Jeffrey Cathcart, director of outreach and education at the URI Transportation Center. “It’s important that these opportunities are introduced to kids before they get to high school and start to choose their career paths.”

During the program, the students went on field trips to the Kingston Train Station, the Rhode Island Air Museum at Quonset Point, T.F. Green Airport and the R.I. Department of Transportation’s maintenance facility, and they learned about map reading and safety in classroom activities.

The students were also introduced to bridge design, which the students immediately put into practice in a two-week exercise to build a model bridge out of balsa wood and glue. After “purchasing” their materials with imaginary money, the teams designed and built the strongest and most efficient bridge they could, while meeting the required specifications.

The project culminated with a strength test at the end of the session, when weights were hung from each bridge to measure their breaking point. The students then calculated the efficiency of their bridges by dividing how much they spent on their building materials by the amount of weight their bridge held.

The student team that constructed the most efficient bridge included Tristan Trautman of Coventry, Joseph Traver of Wakefield, Ibrahim Toure of Woonsocket and Ivan Flores of Pawtucket. Their bridge weighed the least (52.7 grams), held the most weight (15 pounds) and was the second least expensive to build ($279,000). Their winning cost efficiency was $18,600 per pound held.

“The bridge building project not only teaches the students about design and construction, but it emphasizes the importance of math skills, communication and teamwork,” stated Cathcart. “It’s great to see kids from different backgrounds work closely together and establish friendships in the process.”

The Summer Transportation Institute was sponsored by the URI Transportation Center, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration. All of the participating students received scholarships to attend the program.

Pictured above

Standing from left: Tristan Trautman of Coventry, Ibrahim Toure of Woonsocket, Ivan Flores of Pawtucket and (kneeling) Joseph Traver of Wakefield show off their winning bridge at the URI Summer Transportation Institute.