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A packed gymnasium at Cross Lutheran School in Yorkville waited eagerly to see how much weight balsa wood bridges could hold during the sixth annual 4-H Bridge Bust on Saturday.
Teams of families, individuals, schools and other groups received 30 balsa wood sticks, and a set of instructions following the model set by Purdue University. The goal of the bust was to create a bridge that could hold the most weight while using the least amount of materials. Bridges were judged for aesthetic traits and structural strength – the weight of the bridge versus the amount of weight that it is going to hold.
To determine the weight that a bridge could hold, a small rod was fitted through each bridge, with a chain attached to either side, holding a large, empty bucket. Volunteers would slowly and carefully pour sand into the bucket, until the bridge snapped. The bucket would then be weighed to determine the amount that the bridge could hold.
Jo Ann Britton, 4-H program coordinator in Kendall County, said, “We’ve been very fortunate, especially on a cold day like today.”
The event is important, Britton said, because it helps to promote and spread awareness of STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“We’ve noticed, certainly that there is a big push for STEM. 4-H has certainly always been involved in STEM, so we were, in my opinion, kind of ahead of the game, in terms of offering this kind of activities,” Britton said. She added that 4-H wants to encourage the pursuit of careers in STEM fields.
In the family division, the Wareman family of Oswego placed first for the second year in a row, taking home top honors in aesthetics and structural efficiency.
Anna Cai and Emily Shao of Peoria took first in aesthetics for the youth division, and Charlie and Xander Albertson of Yorkville took first in structural efficiency.
In the elementary school division, Grande Reserve Team #1 took first in both aesthetics and structural efficiency, and at the middle school level, O’Neill Middle School Team #1 of Downers Grove took first in aesthetics and structural efficiency.