On Saturday, January 28, PREP conducted its first annual California Bridge Building Competition at California State University, Sacramento in partnership with PECG and the California State University, Sacramento College of Engineering and Sciences. Open to participating TRAC Students, three teams in two divisions (middle and high school) were invited to compete based on the scores of their pre-submitted design portfolios, as evaluated by PECG’s Promoting Readiness for Engineering Professions (PREP) Committee.
Our volunteer judges included Caltrans Chief Deputy Director Kome Ajise, Will McClure and Sarah Skeen from FHWA, SCOE Engineering Career Pathways Coordinator John Agostinelli, and two engineers from the PECG PREP Committee, Cathrina Barros and Brian Simon.
Modeled after AASHTO’s National Bridge and Structure Competition, six teams of middle and high school students provided Power Point presentations, answered on-the-spot questions from the judging panel, and strength tested their bridges on stage for cash prizes, with the first place team in each of the two Divisions (middle and high school) taking home $1,500 from PECG, for their team.
Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7) stopped by to deliver a message of support and encouragement for the students, and exhibitors from FHWA, the California Air Resources Board, Sacramento State University, the NorCal STEM Education Foundation, and PECG provided information for interested students and competition attendees at our mini College & Career Fair.
The event also drew a significant amount of television media attention, with KCRA 3, Fox 40, and Univision 19 all sending cameras and conducting interviews at the event. The following Friday, February 3, a local CBS morning news program, Good Day Sacramento, also invited the winning middle school team to the news station to do a live bridge building and testing segment. The coverage has helped to generate a great deal of interest from other educational and industry organizations that hope to be involved next year and has given the hard working students some well-deserved recognition.
Conducting the statewide competition has provided the opportunity for students to gain practice and feedback in advance of their applying for AASHTO’s National Bridge and Structure competition. Since proposals for that competition aren’t due until February 15, even students who weren’t chosen as statewide finalists were able to hear from the proposal evaluation team and given recommendations for proposal enhancement.
This year, AASHTO has received over 50 student applications from California teachers whose students plan to submit proposals to the national competition, a huge jump from one application that was submitted in 2016. While we can’t speculate as to whether or not California teams will be invited to compete in the finals competition at the AASHTO Spring Meeting in Portland Maine in May, we anxiously await the announcement of finalists in early March!
Again, partnerships have and continue to make the difference in our ability to support and motivate our students to engineer California’s future. Links to the television news segments of the California Bridge Building Competition can be found HERE.