By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Two teams of students from the Tupelo School District won bridge building national championships last weekend.
The annual competition was held on Sunday in Providence, R.I., and sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials during its annual meeting. Five of the nine participating teams were from Northeast Mississippi.
The TMS Bridge Builders won the seventh- and eighth-grade division and Bridge Engineers of Tupelo captured the ninth- and 10th-grade age group. Members of TMS Bridge Builders are Abigail Grant, Ryan Malone and Saajan Patel. Bridge Engineers of Tupelo included James Grant, Josephine Orrick and Luke Tucker.
Tupelo had two other competing teams. Diamond Pi (Kimya Jamasbi, Ricardo Ungo and Katerina Kushla) placed second in the ninth- and 10th-grade division, and Tupelo Bruggenbouwers (Caitlin Bailey, Jimmy Stone and Penelope Dao) was third in the 11th- and 12th-grade division.
Booneville Middle School’s Weston Coggin, John Howell and Trevin Moore finished third in the seventh- and eighth-grade division.
The Tupelo teams were sponsored by Tupelo Middle School teachers Julia Smith, Connie Gusmus and Holly Bailey. Booneville’s team was sponsored by ICT2 teacher Mitzi Cox.
“It takes all of the teachers working together, beginning in elementary school,” Gusmus said. “Everyone plays a part, and we’ve just pulled it all together for the competition. It has taken our school system and parents to get the kids to where they are.”
Teams were selected to compete in nationals based on an extensive portfolio about how they designed and built their bridges out of balsa wood, popsicle sticks and glue. Fifty-five teams submitted applications and three were chosen in each of the three divisions.
At the competition, they were judged on their portfolios, presentations and on how much weight their bridge held relative to its size.
Students on the first-place teams received $500 each. Second-place finishers were awarded $300 and third-place contestants got $200 each.
“These kids came away winners,” Gusmus said. “This is an awesome, real-world, hands-on learning experience.”