Young Engineers Rise to Bridge Challenge

“Take some string, four drawing pins, two lengths of dowel, three short paper sticks, a few pieces of card, and some paper. You have just 45 minutes to construct a load-bearing bridge.” That was the challenge facing youngsters competing in the annual Bridge Building Competition sponsored by Rochester Bridge Trust at the Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham, on March 16.

Year 5 pupils from St Mary’s Island School, Chatham, took the top honours constructing a bridge that could support 12Kg. Second place went to Byron Primary School, Gillingham, with 10 Kg, and third to Allington Primary School, Maidstone, 9Kg.

The bridges were put to the load weight test by Bridge Master Derek Flippance. Mr Flippance served with the Royal Engineers across the world for 24 years. He now shares his knowledge of the history of bridge building and engineering techniques with museum visitors.

Nine Kent and Medway primary schools took part in this year’s competition. Sue Threader, Bridge Clerk at the Rochester Bridge Trust, presented the winner’s trophy to St Mary’s Island School.

Each participating school received a K’NEX bridge building kit to help pupils hone their skills for next year’s bridge building challenge.

“The competition was great fun, and clearly the pupils had taken on board a lot of the information about bridge engineering during their morning of workshops and talks. Their success was dependent not only on knowledge but also on their ability to share ideas and work constructively as a team. The Rochester Bridge Trust is pleased to support projects which inspire our young people to find out more about engineering and may encourage them to train as our bridge builders of the future,” said Mrs Threader.

The five-strong team from St Mary’s Island School are all members of a lunchtime Design and Technology club led by teacher Michael Hardgrave.

Mr Hardgrave said: “This is an extremely popular club at the school. It was very difficult to select just five pupils for the competition. Clearly they were delighted to win and I am sure we will have club members taking part again next year to defend the title.”

The bridge building competition was also backed by Mabey Johnson, part of the Mabey Group of Companies – a major British organisation specialising in bridging, steel fabrication, plant hire and construction products.

Notes to editors:

1. The Rochester Bridge Trust is a charitable trust that exists to maintain the old and new bridges at Rochester and serve the travelling public. It is the only surviving bridge trust still serving its original purpose, and it has served the people of Kent since 1399. The Trust also supports numerous community and education projects across historic Kent and Medway.

2. The Trust’s assets all derive from endowments of land and money in the 14th and 15th centuries and are carefully managed in order to provide an income to fund bridge maintenance and local charitable grants. The Trust receives no external funding and is regulated by the Charity Commission.

For more information:

The Rochester Bridge Trust
5 Esplanade
Rochester
Kent ME1 1QE
Tel: 01634 846706
Fax: 01634 840125