CHARLESTON, W. Va. (WVVA) - Middle and high school students only have a few weeks left to participate in the 2021 West Virginia Bridge Design and Build Contest.
Students from all parts of the Mountain State have until 11:59 p.m., Friday, Mar. 12, 2021, to register for the contest, download their bridge design software, and come up with a design for a proposed bridge.
There is no cost to participate in the competition, which teaches students about engineering in an interactive way.
Finalists will be notified by Tuesday, March 16.
The final competition, which will be held virtually due to COVID-19, will take place on Saturday, Mar. 27, 2021.
“The contest allows students from all over the state to try their hands at bridge design,” said Ryland Musick, P.E., Ph.D., Deputy State Highway Engineer, who has been involved with the contest since its inception.
“But the contest is really about inspiring and encouraging young would-be engineers and showing students one of the many options available for employment in their home state.”
You can get the details, read the rules, register, and download the bridge design software at wvbridgedesignandbuildcontest.com.
Students are encouraged to participate even if they do not plan to become engineers.
Siblings and other family members can also submit designs to see how they compare.
Every student who submits a design that shows up on the leaderboard receives a family pass for a free tour on the New River Gorge Bridge catwalk, compliments of BridgeWalk.
The bridge tour is available to all West Virginia students, including elementary school students who are not yet eligible to compete.
“It allows us to reach out to them on their level and help them understand what civil engineering and structural engineering really are,” Musick said.
“In return, students who take part in the contest just might decide to pursue a career in engineering, and just might decide to come to work for WVDOT someday."
“This is a good opportunity for us to help replace our workforce with future employees,” Musick continued.
Musick added that the contest began as part of a national bridge design contest created at West Point.
“We had the first team in the nation that won the national contest two years in a row,” he said.
When the national contest shut down in 2016, software designers made the bridge design software public.
Highways officials in West Virginia revised the software and carried on with the competition.
“It’s important to note that this contest is for any and every middle school and high school student in West Virginia,” said Jennifer Dooley, contest committee member.
“They don’t need to think they’re good at math or science, or that they already know what engineering is all about. They can try it for fun, from their own home, and it’s very user-friendly software. It’s interesting and compelling; something they can enjoy. For the Division of Highways, it’s a great way to reach out to them and let them know there are good jobs available right here in West Virginia. We are always looking for engineers, but we have all types of careers available across the state, and as West Virginia’s economy continues to grow, those opportunities grow as well.”