Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Dark Past: The Bridge

When I was in ninth grade, my math teacher thought it would be such a great experience for my class (four of us) to enter into a county-wide model truss-bridge contest.
Basically you take a bunch of special wood, balsam, I think, and glue it together, to see how much weight your bridge can hold. At the event, each group presents a powerpoint presentation about bridge building, and hands in a written report, ve'chulu.
We were hesitant at first, but after seeing how much time it would take off from our studies, we soon had the incentive to try.
It was hard work, gluing and cutting the little pieces of wood. We first of course had to design a bridge, so we looked at real truss bridges, which basically use only triangles, which are the strongest shape.
The first bridge we built collapsed as we were testing it, and we only had time to build one more.
The design used triangles, but we really had no idea about exactly what would add the most tensile strength, etc. to the bridge. So we just made ours look cool.
On the big day, we got out of the car, and walked across the parking lot, to where the event was being held. We were all smiles, but it went pretty much downhill from there.
The first thing that we noticed was that we were carrying our bridge. Out in the open. Where the elements could touch it. We were all taken aback when we saw one school's team open up a steel briefcase that looked like it should have been handcuffed to the President, and as it opened steam hissed out (you know, that frozen, cryogenic type of smoke).
As we brought our bridge up to the platform of judges to wait with all the other bridges, until the program started, my friend who was carrying our bridge- dropped it!!
Everyone in the whole auditorium gasped. The place was completely silent. We just chuckled, but were bright red in the cheeks.
When we went to take our seats, we saw that the program had made a mistake with our school's name, and instead of listing us as a high school, instead said we were a day-school.
But we weren't going to let those things stop us from taking home the gold. We took our seats and waited until it was our time to present the power point we made.
We all looked nervously at each other after listening to the other presentations. Dang, these guys were good!! Most teams actually weighed and tested every single stick of wood they used, to get the best ones. We never even thought of that. A lot of teams tested about five or six different designs, some using sophisticated computer software, to determine the strongest. We just brought whatever had not fallen apart when we tested it. Most presentations had an in-depth analysis of the structure of bridges, and density of each piece of wood, and a lot of stuff we didn't understand. Our presentation had cute pictures of triangles and real bridges, and saying things a four year old wouldn't need to be taught.
But we got up there when it was our turn, and we delivered our presentation, and some people even clapped!
And then it was on to the competition. I don't remember now how much weight we held before collapsing, but let's say for example that if our bridge held 7 pounds, that would mean the winner held about 16. We beat maybe like two bridges.
One judge told us she liked our design (we had some kinda cool second tier/floor type of bridge, where it went up higher than it needed to. not because it would make the bridge stronger, but we just thought it would make it look cooler) and thought we'd for sure win. Wasn't she disappointed.
At the end, as we were leaving, everyone kind of avoided looking at us.
But at least we tried, right?