Popsicle stick bridge project tests students’ skills

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As Mexia science teacher Bill Matthews lets go of the 10-kg weight hanging from a Popsicle stick bridge constructed by physics students Caroline Kendall, left, and Keristen Washington, the teens react with joy and relief. Through the competition, the students learned about natural forces, research, planning, analysis, follow-through and teamwork. Mexia News photo/Roxanne McKnight

By Roxanne McKnight
Staff Writer
Mexia High School science teacher Bill Matthews knew he had a winner on his hands when he saw his physics students’ response to his proposed Popsicle stick bridge-building contest.
Matthews was looking for a fun, interesting, hands-on project the kids would enjoy as much as the mousetrap-powered model car race he did last year. He found a winner on the Internet in the Popsicle stick bridge building contest, which is sponsored nationally by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“I put it on the calendar and told the kids we would do it the last six weeks,” he said. “Well, from the moment I put it down, I was being asked every other day, ‘When are we going to build bridges?’ They were really looking forward to it.”
What may have seemed like fun and games was actually an ingenious lesson in many areas: natural forces, research, planning, analysis, follow-through and teamwork, to name a few.
“We had been studying forces and the way forces act, the direction they act and so forth,” he said. “That was the tie-in.”

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