Engineering Students Test Skills In Bridge Design Contest

April 3, 2014 - 7:45am

First year engineering students at Vancouver Island University (VIU) are building model bridges with popsicle sticks to test their design skills – and now they want the public to help choose a winner.

In a friendly competition, 11 teams in Dr. Brian Dick’s Engineering Design II class have been creating model bridges to replace the Johnson Street bridge spanning Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

Their creative bridge designs will be on display Friday, April 11 in the upper cafeteria (Building 300) at VIU’s Nanaimo campus from 9 am to 2 pm. The public is invited to stop by and celebrate the achievements of these engineering students and provide feedback on how well they met their design objectives.

“The goal is to build a structure that autonomously detects boat traffic, and opens the bridge deck to allow passage,” says Dick, Chair of VIU’s Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy.

“The system must also control vehicle traffic travelling over the bridge and close the bridge deck after the boat has passed.”

A number of constraints were presented to students as part of their design, one of which is its aesthetic appeal given the iconic nature of the Johnson Street bridge within the local community.

Local engineers, the public, and staff, students and faculty at VIU are being asked to rank each of the bridge structures in terms of what bridge design best represents innovation and practicality.

They will also be asked overall which bridge design best represents a suitable replacement for the Johnson Street bridge.
Students will receive marks based on this feedback.

Dick’s first-year course is part of the Fundamentals of Engineering certificate. “We’ve been running the program at VIU for a number of years and we typically have around 40 students each term,” says Dick.

Successful completion of this certificate with a minimum required grade point average qualify students for admission into the second year engineering program at the University of British Columbia (UBC) or the University of Victoria (UVic). For more details, go to


Tags: Student Success

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