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Bridge Building Competition Guidelines

1. Purpose and Overview
The annual Model Bridge Building Contest is a statewide program aimed at providing interaction and communication among practicing engineers, high school students, and other professionals. Its underlying objectives are to enhance the appeal of engineering careers to high school students, begin establishing their relationships with the professional community, and improve the prospects that such careers will be mutually beneficial to both society and the individual.

The top winners from each region in the state competition are eligible to advance to the International Contest. In 1997, a student from Parker, Colorado took first place in the International competition and received a four year scholarship to the Illinois Institute of Technology, worth over $40,000.00! For more information on the International Contest, see the National Bridge Contest link.

TEACHERS: If you would like assistance getting a program started in your school, email info@pec.org. We'll be glad to help!

Mentors for teachers and students are available. E-mail info@pec.org for your requests. Please encourage your students to participate! It is an exciting and rewarding experience for them, and for the coaches too. If you or other faculty members are unable to assist students, a PEC member in your area may be able to help. If you have any questions about past or future competitions, please contact Roberta Bourn at 303-480-1160 or by e-mail at roberta@imigroup.org.

2. Sponsors of Contest
The contest is sponsored by the Professional Engineers of Colorado (PEC), the Denver office of the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado (ACEC/CO).

3. Eligibility for Contest
Any high school student may enter one model bridge for individual competition. Teams of students may construct bridges, but only one student may be listed and recognized as the entrant. ONLY ONE STUDENT PER BRIDGE IS ELIGIBLE FOR PRIZES. Only three official models may be entered from any one school. Those schools with three official entries will have the best chance to win the school team competition as determined by the sum of efficiencies from the three official entries.

4. Requirements of the Teacher
A teacher in each school shall support the contest by:

  1. Encouraging students to construct model bridges.
  2. Assisting them in complying with the specifications.
  3. Holding a school competition to determine the top three efficiencies, or attending a regional contest (check PEC website for more information).
  4. Entering the three most efficient models for the State Regional competition.

5. Qualification
Bridges will be checked against all technical specifications prior to testing. Bridges that do not meet the specifications in their entirety, as solely determined by the contest judges, will be disqualified from the official contest.

Students may attempt to modify disqualified bridges to enable them to be re-qualified (see Section 10, On-Site Modifications.) All such modifications must be completed and re-qualification accomplished before 12:00 noon on the day of testing. No unregistered bridges will be tested. Only registered and qualified bridges are considered official entries. Students and teachers should remember that the deadline for entry registration is 11:00 am.

Bridges that do not qualify may still be tested as "unofficial" entries dependent upon available time in the judgment of the contest sponsors. Unofficial bridges are not eligible for prizes or trophies and are not included in the standings, for either individual or team competition purposes. All decisions of the judges are final.

6. On-Site Modifications
Facilities will be available to enable students to repair bridges that are damaged during transportation to the contest site or to modify those that fail to meet one or more of the technical specifications. A limited supply of tools, glues, and other supplies will be available on site. However, teachers and students are encouraged to bring whatever special supplies might be necessary to correct any reasonable damage or specification violation.

Electrical outlets will be available on site for the operation of glue-guns, 'Dremel' tools, etc. However, students operating such equipment will be required to wear safety glasses.

7. Changes
The contest rules for the Colorado Contest are based on the International Contest rules and are subject to revision. Updates will be posted on the PEC website at www.pec.org under the Contest Rules section. While every effort will be made to publicize all changes in a timely manner, participants are responsible for complying with all changes.

8. Location, Time of Contest, and Registration
The contest will be held in the Bureau of Reclamation Engineering Research Laboratories, Building 56, at the Denver Federal Center, Denver, Colorado (see map). Contestants may begin check in after 8:00 A.M. on Saturday, February 23, 2008, but must check in no later than 11:00 A.M. to participate. The contest for both Region 1 and Region 2 will be held simultaneously at this location.

Contestants will check in at Station 1 where they will receive a registration card for their bridge. They will then be directed to the Judges Station and Weigh Station en route to load testing.

Remember there are no more than three official entries per school, and official bridges will take precedence for testing on contest day. Unofficial bridges will be tested as time allows, as determined by the contest sponsors.

For those traveling to the contest, please note that Federal regulations prohibit dogs (other than those to guide or assist disabled persons), guns, and alcohol from entering the Federal Center. Drivers will be asked to show their drivers licenses at the gate.

9. Mail-in Entries
Those unable to attend the contest may participate by mailing in their bridge. Mailed bridges should be packaged to withstand any damage that may occur while in transit. The mail code is 86-68180 and the address for mail-in entry is:

Bridge Building Contest, ATTENTION 86-68180
Bureau of Reclamation
P.O. Box 25007
Building 67, Room 152
Denver Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225-0007

All mail-in bridges must be received no later than 4:00 P.M. Thursday, February 21, 2008. Each bridge must have the students name and school clearly printed in ink on the bridge. All mail-in bridges must have a tag firmly attached to the bridge with the following information clearly printed in ink:

  • Student's name
  • Name of the sponsoring teacher (if any)
  • Student's intent to attend or not attend the contest
  • School name
  • City in which school is located
  • School return address
  • Region (1 or 2)

Any bridge that indicates the student will not be present on the day of the contest may be tested the day before in order to reduce testing times on Saturday morning.

Mail-in entries will be returned to the student along with any contest related documents.

10. Awards
Trophies will be awarded to the five contestants with the highest efficiency numbers and the five schools with the highest sum of efficiency numbers from each region. In addition, a special Judge's Award of Merit will be given to an individual contestant irrespective of region. Awards will be presented after completion of the testing (estimated to be in the early afternoon). Contestants will receive a T-Shirt, color picture of their bridge and certificates commemorating the event. Additional Prizes, Scholarship and Awards will be listed in detail in the near future. The competition will conclude with a demonstration of the 5-million pound-testing machine.

The top two winners from each region will be invited to compete in the international contest (time and location to be announced at a later date).

11. Bass Wood Suppliers
The following is a list of various suppliers for bass wood. Remember, we are using 3/32" x 3/32" sticks this year!


Specialized Balsa Wood LLC
(970) 461-WOOD (9663)
3/16" x 3/16" sticks:
24" long = $0.16 per stick
36" long = $0.28 per stick
48" long = $0.46 per stick
You can access this special rate over the Internet at or you can contact Jake Zimmer at jake@specializedbalsawood.com
Lone Star Balsa
3/16 x 3/16 x 36" Basswood- .30 each
3/16 x 3/16 x 48" Basswood- .40 each
3/32 x 3/32 x 36" Basswood- .25 each
3/32 x 3/32 x 48" Basswood- .33 each
National Balsa Company
3/16 x 3/16 x 36" Basswood- .28 each
3/16 x 3/16 x 48" Basswood- .46 each
3/32 x 3/32 x 36" Basswood- .24 each
3/32 x 3/32 x 48" Basswood- .30 each
Superior Balsa & Hobby Supply
3/16 x 3/16 x 36" Basswood- .28 each
3/16 x 3/16 x 48" Basswood- .46 each
3/32 x 3/32 x 36" Basswood- .22 each
3/32 x 3/32 x 48" Basswood- .30 each

12. Other
Bureau of Reclamation volunteers will be giving tours of their laboratories during the contest. Additional activities will be sponsored on-site once again this year. Computers will be available with the popular West Point Bridge Designer software during the day. Also, a concession stand operated by a Boy Scout troop will be available for purchasing lunch items, snacks, and beverages during the contest. We will also have information booths for colleges and professional organizations the day of the contest to provide further information regarding the engineering profession.

13. Questions
Questions regarding the contest rules should be directed to John Migliaccio (see Contest Representatives). John will summarize the questions he receives and will post them on the Questions and Answers link on the website. Questions in regards to the contest should be directed to Roberta Bourn. E-mail addresses are shown below, and are welcome and encouraged. Updates to the "Contest Rules" and "Questions and Answers" will be on-going. Please check the PEC website frequently at www.pec.org for current information and modifications.

14. Contest Representatives

John J. Migliaccio, P.E.
Project Manager
Structural Engineering
San Engineering LLC

Roberta Bourn
Executive Director
Professional Engineers of Colorado
3030 W 81st Avenue
Westminster, CO 80031

Lesley Mace
Subdivision Review Engineer
City of Colorado Springs Engineering
30 S. Nevada, Suite 702
Colorado Springs, CO 80901
(719) 385-5069
(719) 385-5025 fax

Guenther Polok, P.E.
Associated Design Professionals, Inc.
1861 Austin Bluffs Pkwy. Ste 101
Colorado Springs, CO 80920










Professional Engineers of Colorado
3030 W 81st Avenue
Westminster, CO 80031
Phone: 303-480-1160
Fax: 303-458-0002