VIRTUAL DESIGN CHALLENGE

PROJECTS DUE MAY 1 - VIRTUAL EVENT MAY 15

FREE, OPEN TO ALL MIDDLE & HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS

Your goal for this challenge is to build a popsicle stick bridge that holds as much weight as possible! You’ll have the opportunity to strengthen your problem-solving skills as you go through the engineering process and apply science to your design choices. You’ll get to see a project showcase at the virtual event, and the winners of the middle and high school levels will have the chance to share their work!
 
This event is entirely free and open to all middle and high school students. There is no application necessary— click the button to sign up! To increase accessibility, we will provide supplies to Champaign-Urbana students without access to materials.

GET STARTED

HOW TO PARTICIPATE

  1. Sign up on this page above.

  2. Read the guidelines for the correct middle or high school level.

  3. Prototype, test, and improve your design! 

  4. Record yourself testing your final device or sign up for live testing over Zoom.

  5. Create a video of your presentation or sign up for a live session over Zoom.

  6. Submit your testing and presentation videos through the form by May 1.

  7. Save the date for the virtual event on May 15!

SCORING

  • Both the middle and high school levels will have one winner.

  • Winners will receive certificates and will get to share a modified version of their presentation during the event showcase.

  • 2/3 of the score will be based on the amount of weight held by the bridge, and 1/3 of the score will be based on the presentation's coverage of the points listed in the rubric.

MATERIALS

Your device may only be constructed using the materials in the following list. You’re free to use an unlimited amount of each material except for popsicle sticks. You can find more details on weights and testing in the guidelines below.

 

  • Up to 25 popsicle sticks (may be up to 5” long and 1/2” wide)

  • Toothpicks

  • Standard plastic “scotch” tape (may be up to 3/4” in width)

    • You may NOT use duct tape, masking tape, wide packing tape, or electrical tape.

  • Any type of glue (e.g., hot glue, school glue, wood glue, glue sticks, or superglue)

  • String or yarn

  • Nuts, washers, or hooks (only for hanging a container for weights)

If you live in the Champaign-Urbana area and do not have access to these items, we are happy to send you a supply kit with the listed materials! Please select the supply kit option on the sign-up form if you are interested.

GUIDELINES

DEVICE

  • You can only create your device with the materials listed above. There are no limits on the amounts you can use, with the exception of popsicle sticks.

 

TESTING

  • The ends of your bridge should be placed on two flat surfaces of the same height, with the middle of the bridge extending across the space between them.

  • At least 3/4 of the length of your device should be in the air between the surfaces you place it on. For example, a device that is 8-inches long would have at most 1 inch of its length on each surface and 6 inches between them during testing.

  • You cannot touch the bridge when loading weights or support the weights that are already placed on it while testing your device.

WEIGHTS

  • You can use weights of any size, as well as less distinct weights (e.g., sand, coins, or rice).

  • You may choose how to add your weights to the bridge when testing (e.g., by stacking them onto top, hanging them from the structure, etc.), and you can use a container to hold them. All parts of the container and weights must be above, under, or in the space between the two surfaces the bridge is placed on.

DEVICE TESTING

You will record a video of your final test for your finished bridge. Alternatively, you will have the option to test over Zoom with volunteers’ guidance by arranging a meeting at this Calendly link. Judging will be based on the amount of weight held by the bridge before breaking.

 

To test over video, follow these steps:

  1. Show your bridge from all sides.

  2. Place the bridge on your testing surfaces and demonstrate that at least 3/4 of it is in between the two surfaces using a measuring tool (e.g. a ruler or meter stick).

  3. Please do not touch or support your bridge while testing.

  4. Keep your bridge and the weights in the frame of the camera throughout the entirety of the testing period. Demonstrate briefly that you’re not supporting or stabilizing the weights each time you add more by taking your hands off of them.

  5. Add weight until your device breaks! If using smaller or less distinct weights (for example, sand, coins, or rice), stop adding weight as soon as your device begins to break. If using distinct, separate weights (e.g., dumbbells or books), the weight that caused the device to break will not count toward your score. 

  6. Film as you transfer the weights to a scale and show the number on the scale. If you don’t have a scale that will register the amount of weight you’re using (or objects with clearly marked weights, such as dumbells) please follow the instructions below.


​Testing without a scale:

  1. Show your device from all sides.

  2. Place the bridge on your testing surfaces and demonstrate that at least 3/4 of it is in between the two surfaces using a measuring tool (e.g. a ruler or meter stick).

  3. Please do not touch or support your bridge while testing.

  4. Place a large container, bucket, or bottle on your bridge or hang it from below.

  5. Fill water in a container(s) of a labeled volume and show the label to the camera.

  6. Keep your bridge and the containers of water in the frame of the camera throughout the entirety of the testing period.

  7. Pour the water into the container, bucket, or bottle until the bridge breaks!

  8. Show us the measurement of the remaining amount of water in the container(s) you poured it from, and we will calculate the weight of the water that your bridge held!

If you plan to test without a scale, we recommend scheduling a Zoom call with INSPIREus volunteers using this Calendly link to reduce confusion and testing your bridge outdoors.

PRESENT-

ATION

Your presentation may be up to 5 minutes, and it should be recorded and submitted in video format. You can do this by presenting during a recorded Zoom call, or having one/multiple group members record a video at home. 

Middle school:

The presentation portion of this challenge should briefly discuss the process of designing and constructing your device, including the following:

  • Your initial brainstorming and planning when starting the project

  • The process of building and testing each prototype and the modifications you made

  • An explanation of the choices you made to get to your final device and their effects

  • Any challenges you faced along the way and what you learned from this challenge

 

High school: 

The presentation portion of this challenge should briefly discuss the process of designing and constructing your device, including the following:

  • ​All of the requirements listed in the middle school section

  • The scientific concepts behind effective bridges and how you applied your research to your design choices

Our goal is to make our programs as accessible as possible. If you would like to take part in this event but any of the guidelines for this challenge present a barrier against participating, please contact us at info@inpire-us.org, and we will do our best to get you involved!