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The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials and infrastructure software firm Bentley Systems are hosting the virtual 2022 National Bridge and Structure Competition on March 29 – part of AASHTO’s Transportation and Civil Engineering or TRAC program for middle and high school students.

[Above image via AASHTO]

Also helping sponsor this yearly event are HDR, Headlight, HNTB, Michael Baker International, TopoDOT, and WSP. For more details, visit National TRAC Bridge Challenge – Transportation.org.

Image via AASHTO

The TRAC program provides students in grades seven through 12 the opportunity to get involved with transportation-related science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM courses, AASHTO noted – an effort mirrored at the elementary-school level via AASHTO’s Roadways In Developing Elementary Students​ or RIDES initiative.

The National Bridge and Structure Competition – typically held in-person at AASHTO’s Spring Meeting – is a one-day event that represents the culminating of nearly eight months work by the various student teams involved in the event. The competing teams of students construct model bridges made from kits provided by the TRAC program that included glue and balsa wood.

They then use infrastructure software to design their bridges, built prototypes, and use destructive testing to gauge the upper limits of the strength-to-weight ratio of their designs.

The competition switched gears to become a “virtual showcase” in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For 2022, while remaining virtual, the event returns to a competitive format with nine teams selected as finalists from a pool of 84 submitted projects vying for top honors in an online forum.

“The role of civil engineers is critical to transportation infrastructure,” explained Dustin Parkman, Bentley’s VP for transportation mobility, in a statement.

“The hands-on experience of the TRAC program introduces students to civil engineering concepts and processes, inspiring them to imagine a future career in engineering,” he added. “I’m proud that AASHTO, Bentley, the other sponsors, and [state] DOTs came together to provide this opportunity for the students to present their projects virtually and get the recognition that they deserve.”

Julia Smith, manager of the AASHTO TRAC & RIDES program, pointed out that AASHTO designed the program for use in science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM classes to introduce students to transportation and civil engineering.

“America’s transportation industry has a huge demand for well-qualified civil engineers,” she said. “TRAC’s goal is to get middle and high school students exposed to and excited about a career in civil engineering. We see TRAC as an investment in today’s youth, to ensure that America has the highly skilled workforce it’s going to need for years to come.”

editor@aashto.org

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