Glencliff High sweeps ASCE bridge competition in 7 out of last 8 years

From left, Vanderbilt University School of Engineering's Janey Camp; Christian Mejia, third place; Ivan Estrada, second place; Si Thu Min, first place; Glencliff High engineering teacher Edward Dunning; ASCE Nashville chapter's Tony Snyder. (Heidi Hall/Vanderbilt University)

There’s not a lot of drama reflected in little plaques adorning the grand-prize trophy for Nashville’s largest high school-level bridge competition.

They show the award has lived at Glencliff High School for five years, then took a brief trip to Montgomery Bell Academy. But when the newest ones are added, they’ll chart the trophy’s journey back to Glencliff for 2015 and 2016.

Click here to see a photo gallery of Saturday’s competition.

The real drama was Saturday among the individual competitors, strategically placing colorful weights in a hanging basket attached to their model bridges, waiting for the inevitable spectacular collapse. The local American Society of Civil Engineers chapter distributed free basswood kits and instructions to high schools, and then students brought their finished work to the annual Music City Bridge Building Competition.

A Glencliff student loads weights onto his model bridge.

It was held at Vanderbilt University’s Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability for the second consecutive year. Also for the consecutive year, the top three prizes all went to Glencliff High School students in Edward B. Dunning’s Principles of Engineering and Technology class.

“Both the students and the bridges are under stress during the testing,” Dunning joked. “But it is exciting. They learned a lot about platforms and trusses and then decided which ones they wanted to use.”

The winning students said Dunning makes learning civil engineering concepts fun.

“I came up with the ideas and asked Mr. Dunning if they were good,” said Glencliff sophomore Si Thu Min, who took first place with his bridge efficiency of 1,148.69. “I also looked at the bridges that former winners designed so I could see what they did.”

Once the bridges collapse under the weight — often sending wood shards flying — the students get to take the pieces home.

Janey Camp, research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Vanderbilt and a competition organizer, said she was thrilled to see students competing from as far away as Portland (TN) High School, plus more spectators this year.

Winners receive cash prizes and trophies, and the top two qualify for the international competition to be held in Chicago later this spring.

Second place went to Ivan Estrada and third place to Christian Mejia. Both are Glencliff freshman.

Other schools that participated Saturday were: Montgomery Bell Academy, Overton High School and Donelson Christian Academy.


Heidi Hall, (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering