Early College wins state title, Polk Middle earns 2nd at model bridge building competition

Members of Polk County Early College's state champion model bridge building team. Front row, from left: Rachel Maher, Tim Bradley, Brennen Kosmeh, Nya Mix. Middle row, from left: Riley Lawter, Shanea Tingling, Brisa Sanchez, Grace Bayse, Autumn Wanicka, Aliya Conner, Emma Bradley, Rose Plunkett, Chloe Maher. Back row, from left: Allie Anderson, Faith Wanicka, Cash McFarlane, Sadie Rogers, Hannah Byars, Trinity Powell, NCDOT event sponsor (name unavailable).

Polk County Early College captured its third consecutive state championship Friday in the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s annual Model Bridge Building Competition in Raleigh.

PCEC won the high school division while Highfalls Middle School of Moore County won the middle school competition. Polk County Middle School, the defending state champion in its class, placed second.

The contest is designed to give middle and high school students a hands-on opportunity to apply their science, technology, engineering and math skills to a real-world scenario.

Seven schools took part in the finals after emerging victorious during regional rounds held in March. Other contenders included students from NCMSEN-Pre College, West Craven Middle School, Franklin Academy and Whiteville High School.

“This is always a great day at the DOT,” said NCDOT Human Resources Operations Analyst and event organizer Sterling Johnson. “We’re so thrilled to give students this unique opportunity to display their talents.”

In Friday’s finals, each team provided some background regarding their design techniques. That was followed by testing sessions in which each bridge made out of balsa wood had its maximum weight capacity assessed by suspending a bucket through the center of the structure as specific amounts of sand were consistently added to the bucket.

The competition helps create a greater awareness of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) studies, particularly as they relate to the world of transportation. By honing their critical thinking, problem solving skills, and presentation abilities, students become more informed about the complex nature of transportation design and strengthen their understanding of STEM education.