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Altoona ASHE Hosts National Bridge Building Winners
Six National bridge building winners, all from the Mifflin County School District (the Lewistown area of Pennsylvania), were honored by Altoona ASHE members at the November meeting.

The students, along with advisors and school administrators, talked about the complications and frustrations leading up to the National Competition held in June at Atlanta, GA. The competitions, regional, state-wide and nationally, are sponsored each year by the Technology Student Association.

Kristin Aurand and Daniella Reynolds, now juniors, designed and built the winning bridge out of balsa wood to capture the 2000 Structural Engineering National Championship. There were 150 teams from high schools throughout the United States participating in this level of competition. All the competitors were in one large room, talking and working at the same time.

The girls said the competition began when they were given the specifications for the bridge and the materials and told they had 2½ hours to design and complete the structure. In past competitions, the girls were able to carve the ? thick pieces of balsa wood in order to lower the structure weight, but one of the stipulations this time was "NO CARVING."

"At first we panicked," the girls said, "and we thought we didn't have much of a chance." Knowing that the secret was to keep the bridge weight low since the formula used to determine the winner (strength of the bridge before breaking) was the weight of the bridge verses the weight it can hold. After discussing several methods, the girls decided to take a straight pin and "hollow out" the structure pieces.

The strategy worked and the bridge, weighing just ounces, held 19.9 pounds before it broke apart. The girls were the National Champions.

Another pair of first place winners, Matt Aurand and Cyle Vogt from the Strodes Mills Middle School of the Mifflin County School District, captured their division by building a structure that stayed together holding 42 pounds before it broke apart. The second place winner was far behind at 34 pounds.

Prototypes of the two first place winners were passed around for the ASHE members to examine.

Two other students, Britney Watt and Chris McKee, won a 12th place award in their division. They are both students at Lewistown Middle School.

Accompanying the students to the ASHE meeting were the two advisors, William C. Aurand, J. Stanley Stuck, assistant superintendent, and Edward Curry, high school principal.

The students and advisors were presented certificates for their accomplishments, and the school district was presented a plaque, honoring the students, advisors and the school board members who provided all the financial support for the students and advisors to go to all the competitions. The presentations were made by ASHE Altoona Section President Joe Keller.

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