Physics classes to compete in regional bridge building contest

Story by Joseph Lee, Co-Editor-In-Chief

This April, students in physics classes will compete against students from neighboring high schools in a bridge building contest. 

The competition will be held in the Idea Shop on Block 22, located in downtown Pittsburg, and will be facilitated by Pitsco Education. 

According to physics teacher Sally Ricker, bridges from Girard, Southeast, St. Mary’s-Colgan and Northeast High Schools will be delivered to the Ideas Shop to be tested. In order to uphold COVID-19 precaution, students will not convene.   

“Pitsco [has] a program for inputting all these numbers, and they’re going to spit them out,” Ricker said. “They’re going to bring someone who will calculate the [bridge] efficiencies for us. We are going to even have a crew that’s going to it. That crew may be from Pitt State.” 

While teaching in Missouri, physics teacher Sally Ricker participated in similar contests for 16 years and wanted to continue involving students after moving to Pittsburg. 

“It’s going to inspire any kids to want to go on and learn more about mechanical engineering or structural engineering,” Ricker said. 

Ricker says she values this Project-Based Learning (PBL) opportunity for its ability to teach career-specific skills. 

“[First, there is] the drawing, and you have got to complete that before you get to move on [to constructing the bridge]. I supervise, then I let you go,” Ricker said. “That’s how it works in the real world. [Workers] get to go in on some teams, and then they say you have two weeks.’”

Ricker says she hopes to make student leadership another key focus of the project in addition to student recognition. 

“I eventually want my high school physics classes to start working with the elementary and middle school and encourage them to do engineering, and they don’t necessarily have to build bridges,” Ricker said. “I want my kids to start inspiring those little kids to do engineering. We need engineers. That’s the endgame plan.”

Ricker hopes to keep the PBL a core part of her curriculum for the future semesters. 

“Kids that enter my physics class will already know there’s a bridge contest in this class, and some kids will want to be in physics for that once it gets a good reputation,” Ricker said. “I hope that it continues each year and it gets bigger and it becomes a competition where teachers embed this into their curriculum.”