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Bridge builders: Camden team wins regional event

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Camden Early College High School student Jesse Sawyer (left) displays the model bridge his team built as participants in the recent N.C. Department of Transportation Model Bridge Building competition. The Camden students won first place in their category. To the right is team member Luke Crider.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, March 22, 2018

CAMDEN — A group of Camden Early College High School students is headed to the state championship round after winning a regional qualifier in the N.C. Department of Transportation Model Bridge Building Competition.

Seniors Matthew Davenport and Jesse Sawyer and freshmen Luke Crider, Kaitlyn Knauss, Neil Bennett and Casey Colson built a model bridge weighing only 30 grams — less than a tenth of a pound — that withstood the weight of 20.73 pounds.

“This thing held 20 pounds,” Sawyer said as he held the balsa wood model in his hands on Wednesday.

The load-bearing capacity of the Camden team’s model surpassed that of any of the other models in the regional competition at the Global TransPark in Kinston last weekend.

Angela Noblitt, the faculty adviser to the Camden team, said teams are evaluated on a written report they submit, a drawing, their presentation, and how much load the model they build bears — with load-bearing accounting for the greatest percentage of the score.

The state competition will be held April 20 at DOT headquarters in downtown Raleigh.

Although their previous design was a winner, the Camden team is going back to the drawing board in search of an even better model for the state contest.

“We kind of come up with the design ourselves,” Sawyer said, explaining that contest officials provide set specifications that the model must meet.

Sawyer said Davenport, the other senior on the team, has taken pre-engineering classes.

“I have taken college physics, which comes in kind of handy on this,” Sawyer said.

Students said the project has taught them much about teamwork.

Some of the team members are eyeing careers in engineering but Knauss said she wants to be a dentist and Bennett is looking at a career in computer science.

DOT has hosted the statewide Model Bridge Building Competition since 2000 to encourage students to develop math and science skills that are used in transportation, construction and engineering careers as well as the work NCDOT does.

Each team builds a bridge out of balsa wood that must weigh less than 30 grams. The load-bearing capacity of the model bridge is tested as scoops of sand are poured into buckets supported by the bridge.

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