South Bergen Bridge Competition
SOUTH HACKENSACK, New Jersey -- With only their hand-drawn or digitally-made blueprints and a few boxes of unopened K’NEX kits in front of them, students from twelve Southern Bergen County districts had just one hour to build a bridge that could withstand both an earthquake and some weighted plates.
The South Bergen Bridge Competition, coordinated by the South Bergen Jointure Commission and hosted by South Hackensack Memorial School, had over one hundred middle school students take part in the assembling of bridges with one ultimate goal: being able to hold more weight than any other bridge at the event.
At last year’s competition, there wasn’t enough poundage to break Rutherford Union School’s bridge, exceeding 100 pounds in metal plates with no visible damage to the structure’s integrity. Their bridge was a well-executed engineering behemoth assembled by students with focus and precision, and the other districts made sure to take notes of Rutherford’s technique. But with the reigning champs not able to attend this year’s event, the chance to take home the 2019 trophy was wide open for all teams in attendance.
When South Bergen Jointure Commission student Stalin G. was asked if he was ready, he replied: “I was born ready.”
The South Bergen Bridge Competitions began back in the 2016, with the objective being to provide students with an after-school outlet for participating in engineering design challenges. What it instead became was your average science fair infused with the energy of a fast-paced game show. Each year, the criteria for the competition has become more challenging, and the earthquake tables (boards balancing on wooden dowels on top of pvc piping) caused some students to question how exactly they were going to attack this problem.
A delay in the start time caused the intensity to build; each team reviewed their strategies, studied the two earthquake tables their bridges would have to support itself on, and questioned whether their designs would be able to span the 48” gap. Some teams had been preparing for a few days, others for a couple of months.
As the students watched the projection on the screen change from reading one hour to 59 minutes and 59 seconds, you could physically feel the hurry overwhelm the gymnasium. Students ripped open their boxes and cut open the plastic packaging; they formed smaller, separate bands put in charge of working on specific components of their structure. Every second of those sixty minutes was used until time ran out.
Lodi’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School was the first to go, setting the score to beat at 15 lbs. Lyndhurst’s middle school followed shortly after, and the weights piled on. They reached seventy-five pounds -- a mark no other school would surpass. Wallington had a dramatic second place finish, with their bridge holding seventy pounds in weight. South Bergen Jointure Commission placed third with 45 pounds.
The final rankings were:
1. Lyndhurst 75 lbs
2. Wallington 70 lbs
3. SBJC 45 lbs
4T. Carlstadt 25 lbs
4T. East Rutherford 25 lbs
4T. Moonachie 25 lbs
4T. S. Hackensack 25 lbs
5. Lodi 15 lbs
6. Hasbrouck Heights 10 lbs
7T. Bogota 5 lbs
7T. Garfield 5 lbs
8. Wood-Ridge --
South Hackensack Memorial School was awarded Most Detailed Blueprint for their digital renditions of their K’NEX bridge, and Carlstadt Public School was awarded Most Unique Design.