Building bridges with future engineers

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By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - The Upper Canada chapter of the Professional Engineers of Ontario celebrated National Engineering Month at the return of the annual student bridge building competition in Cornwall this Saturday.

Erik Ronkin, 12, puts his bridge to the test at the Professional Engineers of Ontario's student bridge building competition.

Area students from grade five to 12 were tasked with building a bridge out of 200 Popsicle sticks and white school glue to test its weight-bearing capabilities before cracking under the pressure of a specialized machine called the 'bridge buster.'

Erik Ronkin, 12, spent a week building his bridge and the hard work paid off with a second place victory in the junior division (grades six to eight). In front of a large crowd at the Cornwall Square, the budding engineer's sturdy structure was able to hold a load of 2.26 kilograms, almost double the amount of many of his competitors.

"My dad told me about this competition and I took the challenge," said Ronkin, a sixth grade student at Rose des Vents. "It was something fun to try and I will probably do this when I get older."

His father, Dimitri, is a network engineer at The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation. He was proud to see his son follow in his path, but noted because of the video game Minecraft, which allows its players to build large virtual constructions, Erik wasn't breaking any new ground. Dimitri showed off an impressive 3-D bridge and canal lock system on his smartphone that his son made in the game.

"It's a video game I don't mind him playing because it provides endless opportunities to learn engineering skills," said Dimitri. "It would be interesting if all the schools in the city and area participated in this competition."

There were 17 students from local schools including Char-Lan District High School, Glengarry District High School, and St. Lawrence Secondary School who took part in the event.

The competition previously ran from 2001 to 2009. It came back after nearly a four-year hiatus due to a strong partnership between the Professional Engineers of Ontario (PEO) and the event's main sponsor Engineering For Industry.

Steven Stang, chair of the Upper Canada chapter of PEO, noted that the event is a great way to pique the interest of a new generation of engineers.

"This year we decided to bring back our popular bridge building competition and the turnout was great," said Stang. "Students had a chance to learn some of the theory of engineering from examining how their bridge failed and next year they can return with improved skills to try again."

The first place winner in the junior division was the Char-Lan duo of Kaytlin Andrews and Charlotte Reed. Ronkin took the second spot and the Filliol brothers, all representing Notre Dame, placed third.

This year's senior division (grades nine to 12) title went to CCVS' Jonathan Ponnudurai. The St. Lawrence team of Nicholas Williams, Brandon Heagle, Samual Handy, and Owen Dulmage won second place and their fellow schoolmate Andrew Crockett captured third.

For more information on the Upper Canada chapter of PEO, visit their website uppercanada.peo.on.ca/wordpress/.

Organizations: Professional Engineers

Geographic location: Ontario

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