Ready Set Build event highlights STEM careers opportunities

ADM constructionWhat does it take to build a bridge? That’s what participants of Ready, Set, Build! discovered Nov. 7 at an event at the Science Center of Iowa.

The event, co-sponsored by the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Institute for Transportation at Iowa State University, provided participants of all ages a fun way to get a taste of what science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers can offer.

Sandra Larson, director of the Iowa DOT’s Systems Operations Bureau, said, “The State of Iowa has taken an active role in fostering STEM interest in the state’s youth. By allowing kids and their families an engaging way to experience situations similar to what transportation professionals encounter, we hope to further spark enthusiasm in STEM-related careers, which make up a large portion of the careers at the Iowa DOT.”  

Bridge building teams in four age groups, as well as a “family” category began building their creations at 9:45 a.m. Load testing (judging) took place from 1-2 p.m., with an awards ceremony following at 3 p.m.  



Here are a few of the tips given to participants to ensure success:

  • Almost doneOn a real bridge, the important part is the steel and/or concrete structure that supports the deck the cars drive on, not the deck itself.
  • A bridge needs to have a solid, stiff shape along its height, length and width. The structure should not bend or twist when weight is placed on it. For example, a Popsicle stick is easier to bend along its flat side than along its edge.
  • A bunch of sticks glued together flat, like a raft, has very little strength and will sag during testing under very little force or weight placed on it.
  • String as a structural piece should always be in tension. In other words, it should always be stretched.
  • The strongest structural shape is the triangle. A bridge made of a series of triangles will be very strong.
  • A bridge that is symmetrical is less likely to twist when loaded with a weight and will probably carry more.

In addition to the official bridge building competition, staff members from Iowa DOT and InTrans were on hand to provide fun and educational activities for visitors to the Science Center.  Activities included building bridges from toothpicks and candy, building balloon powered vehicles, and answering trivia about driver behavior and traffic safety.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Have a comment?


©  Iowa Department of Transportation.  All rights reserved.