Tupelo teams qualify for national competition

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Four teams from the Tupelo Public School District have been selected to participate in the National Bridge Building Finals, which will be held in May in Traverse City, Mich.
Two teams from Tupelo Middle School and two teams from Tupelo High School will be among the nine teams in the nation competing at the event, to be held May 18 at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ Spring Meeting.
Forty-four teams from around the country participated in the competition by building a bridge and submitting a detailed portfolio about it.
At the national competition, team members will make a presentation about their bridge to a panel of engineers and will test how much weight the bridge can hold.
Three teams were selected to compete in each of the three divisions: seventh and eighth grade, ninth and 10th grade and 11th and 12th grade. Both of the THS teams are in the ninth- and 10th-grade division, while the TMS teams are in the seventh- and eighth-grade bracket.
“It is really a great honor to represent not only Tupelo Public Schools, but the state of Mississippi at a national competition,” said Julia Smith, who coaches the Tupelo Middle School team with Connie Gusmus.
Jenny Bobo, Rachel Bobo and Katerina Kushla make up one TMS team and James Grant, Ricardo Ungo and Alex Hart constitute the other. One THS team features Maddie Arancibia, Kimya Jamasbi and Christopher Wright, while the other has Nick Kaltchenko, Xen Gaerlen and Penelope Dao.
“Hard work paid off,” said Pam Cockrell, who coaches the Tupelo High School team. “It is a good opportunity for these students.”
Parents Vafa Jamasbi and Lori Grelen helped spearhead the creation the THS team as part of their parent project for Parents for Public Schools. Mississippi Department of Transportation engineer Matt Dunn also helped the teams.
Other Mississippi schools to compete included Booneville Middle School, Olive Branch High School and Newton County Vocational Technical School. The other finalists are from Michigan and New Hampshire.
The competition is sponsored by the Transportation and Civil Engineering program.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com