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Neighbors of DuPage

Tri-County teams take home awards and life lessons from 5th Annual Bridge Bust with 4-H

Jan 16, 2017 11:12AM ● By Neighbors Magazines

Michael and Zoe Wareman of Oswego earned the overall award for structural efficiency at the 5th Annual Bridge Bust with 4-H

PLANO, Ill. – Families, community members, 4-H’ers, and school students from DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties put their engineering skills to the test in the Fifth Annual 4-H Bridge Bust Competition on Saturday, Jan. 7. After weeks of bridge building and a morning of bridge busting, teams walked away with more than ribbons or trophies. 

“This year, we celebrated five years of promoting engineering, innovation and creativity,” said Jo Ann Britton, 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator with University of Illinois Extension. “The Bridge Bust competition provides area youth and families with a unique way to challenge their brains, work together and learn about engineering principles, all while having fun.”

In all, 24 teams completed bridges and participated in the 2017 event with 4-H Youth Development through University of Illinois Extension, and partners Rural King of Plano and Fox Valley Family YMCA. The top prize for structural efficiency went to Michael and Zoe Wareman, a father-daughter team from Oswego, whose bridge held 22 pounds and earned a rating of 344.818, and the father-son team of Steve and Jacob Gugala earned the overall aesthetics award for the second year in a row.

For weeks, registered teams designed and built bridges – each with the same provided materials and guidelines. On Jan. 7, teams competed in several divisions: family, youth, elementary, middle school and high school. Aesthetics was judged based on provided specifications, the quality of craftsmanship, sound structural design and originality. Structural efficiency ratings were calculated based on the weight of that bridge and the maximum weight supported by it.

In addition, a new team choice was added this year to give younger students, ages 5 to 9, the opportunity to practice engineering and design skills without competition. These non-competitive division teams were able to conference with judges, with the option to break their bridges in an exposition category.

During the judging and tabulating portions of the day, participants and spectators alike had the opportunity to witness robotics demonstrations from 4-H Club #AWESOME 2.0; to try out the 4-H National Youth Science Day activity, Drone Discovery, with 4-H Teen Science Ambassadors; and to see 4-H projects from State Fair Superior Award winners.

Attendees and teams also learned about real-world projects in construction, design and engineering from Ted Gibbons, senior associate at Desman Design Management, and Bob Latzke, a civil and geotechnical engineer with CBI Construction Technology

In addition, U.S. Representative Randy Hultgren (IL-14) attended the event to support his son’s 4-H Robotics team, and he spoke to the crowd about the importance of STEM education, opportunities and careers.

“We need to do everything we can to prepare young people to fill these roles,” said Hultgren, who also is co-chair of the Science, Space and Technology Committee. “There are amazing opportunities out there in our communities. We are so grateful for 4-H and Extension. They are a wonderful resource we should be supporting and taking advantage of.”

“The more we can have these available, the better chance we have to help kids find their passion and encourage them to pursue their dreams,” he added.

Twelve-year-old Zoe Wareman said she has been inspired by both projects at school and the Bridge Bust event to be a mechanical engineer one day. She entered the annual Bridge Bust event last year with a school team and she laughed as she called it “an epic fail,” but that did not stop her from coming back.

This year, Zoe and her dad entered in the family division. She did research, attended the 4-H Bridge Building workshop and took another approach to her bridge.

“We sat down and decided efficiency was most important,” she said. “We decided on an over-arch with under triangles. Both are strong, amazing shapes for bridges. The truss design was zig-zag triangles for support. It also provided visual appeal, but we didn’t focus on aesthetics.”

It worked, as the father-daughter duo took top honors for structural efficiency overall and in their division. They even added a second-place aesthetics trophy to the bundle.

“This project really brings together many skills from start to finish,” said Britton. “It encourages organization, teamwork and communication skills, as well as engineering, physics, math and more.”

In addition to all of these skills, Downers Grove teacher Meg Van Dyke called out additional benefits to opportunities like Bridge Bust. She has been volunteering her time to lead O’Neill Middle School bridge teams for the past five years.

“These are super devoted kids,” she said. “They all love science, math and building things. This opportunity allows them to meet like-minded kids and build camaraderie, which is important, especially in middle school.”

Each year, interested students meet weekly after school and over the winter break to design and build their bridges. Van Dyke said she takes a hands-off approach when guiding the group.

“Me telling them the answers does no good,” she said. “They learn more on their own. It may fail 999 times before it works once. That’s science. That’s engineering. And it’s a valuable lesson in life too.”

O’Neill eighth-grader Qasim Simba said he learned how to deal with pressure and be part of a team.

“I learned it’s OK to make mistakes,” he said, explaining when he broke a piece of wood during the process. “It taught me to be careful and focus, and also to problem solve.”

Teammate Jason Richert agreed. “We learned to recover from mistakes, accept them and move forward, instead of completely freaking out.”

The team went on to take first place in structural efficiency and second place in aesthetics in the Middle School category. Full results of the 2017 Bridge Bust are as follows:

Family Division: Aesthetics Awards: first place, the Gugala family of Plano; second, the Wareman family of Oswego; and third, the Shear family of Morris. Structural Efficiency Awards: first place, Waremans; second, the Davis family of Newark; and third, Shears.

Youth Division: Aesthetics Awards: first place, Pack 159 of Batavia; second, the Trinity Trailblazers 4-H Club of DuPage County; and third, Team Spark of Aurora. Structural Efficiency Awards: first place, Team Spark; second, Pack 159; third, Trinity Trailblazers 4-H Club.

Elementary School Division: Aesthetics Awards: first place, Grande Reserve Elementary School (Yorkville) Team 1; second, Grande Reserve Team 3; and third, Grande Reserve Team 2. Structural Efficiency Awards: first place, Grande Reserve Team 1; second, Grande Reserve Team 2; and third, Grande Reserve Team 3.

Middle School Division: Aesthetics Awards: first place, Grace Holistic Center for Education (Yorkville); second, O’Neill Middle School (Downers Grove) Team 2; and third, O’Neill Middle School Team 1. Structural Efficiency Awards: first, O’Neill Middle School Team 2; second, O’Neill Middle School Team 1; and third, Grace Holistic Center for Education.

High School Division: Aesthetics Award and Structural Efficiency Award: first, Streator High School Team.

This annual event was sponsored by 4-H and University of Illinois Extension, in partnership with Rural King of Plano and the Fox Valley Family YMCA.

Event volunteers, judges and speakers included: Kyle Dorf and Jacob Thede of American Society of Civil Engineers, Chris Erickson of Power Construction, Ted Gibbons of Desman Design Management; Brandon Kunkel, Michelle Scott and Jeff Smith of Rural King; Bob Latzke of CBI Construction Technology, and Jeff and Austin Nakaerts of Kendall County 4-H.

“We are grateful to our partners, volunteers and guests for making this annual event a great success,” Britton said. “We look forward to the event each year, and enjoy seeing youth and community members enjoy this fun, educational opportunity.”

For more information about the event or local 4-H and Youth Development programs, contact your county Extension office, or visit University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems.