Middle School Kids Engineer Bridges, Win Awards

Verizon challenged the students to create innovative bridge designs as part of a friendly competition during 2015 National Engineers Week — and the kids delivered.

By on March 20, 2015

The Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge and the quaint structures in the popular Bridges of Madison County novel all occupy a beloved place in Americana.  If the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) students in one Santa Ana, California middle school have their way, we’re sure to see a wave of new iconic bridges dot the American landscape in the decades to come.   

That’s because Verizon challenged the students to create innovative bridge designs as part of a friendly competition during 2015 National Engineers Week — and the kids delivered.

Tasked to build sturdy, one-foot long bridges out of cardboard, Popsicle sticks and tape, 50 two-person teams created nearly as many unique bridges.  Volunteers from Verizon Wireless’ Southern California network team were on hand at the McFadden Middle School to judge the competition. 

First-place winners, Emma and Giselle, both 8th graders, engineered a bridge that held the weight of two fire extinguishers and numerous small weights, without collapsing.  “We weren’t sure where we would place,” said Emma, “but we were really excited to know who did the best.” Holding her first place trophy, Emma beamed, “It feels good to win. We didn’t expect it!” 

 A recent  U.S. Department of Commerce report projected that STEM occupations will grow by 17 percent by 2018, nearly double the rate of non-STEM fields. Results from similar studies prompted McFadden Middle School to take action.

 “Two years ago the school launched its first STEM program to appeal to its often underserved population to ignite their curiosity and passion for STEM,” said Tom Morris, 7th grade science teacher at the school.  McFadden is part of the Santa Ana Unified School District with a student population that’s  96 percent Latino.

Seventh grade student David expressed his excitement about the program during a break in the competition.  “It’s a great opportunity for my education and I could make a future out of it.” Fellow classmate Andrew said, “I love science and math so to put them together in one class is just the best — and it helps my education.”

Students also heard from Verizon volunteers who discussed the wide variety of engineering and technology career options in the wireless industry. 

For some, the highlight of the day was meeting a local real-life Verizon Wireless “Test Man” who drives thousands of miles across Southern California every year, testing the company’s and its competitors’ networks.  With that information, Verizon strengthens its network — just one reason the company won the California Overall RootScore® Award, in 2H 2014 from RootMetrics®, an independent mobile analytics firm*.

To learn more about Verizon’s education initiatives, please visit: http://www.verizon.com/about/responsibility/education/

*Rankings based on RootMetrics California RootScore Report (July – December 2014) for mobile network performance test results of 4 mobile networks as an average across all available network types. The RootMetrics awards are not an endorsement of Verizon. Your results may vary. Visit www.rootmetrics.com for details.

Tags: education, STEM, Rootmetrics