VIU Engineering Diploma and Certificate Program

2013 Engineering Design Competition

Engineering Students Build Popsicle Stick Bridges While Learning Design Techniques

Model bridges designed to replace Victoria's Johnson Street bridge

VIU RELEASE: 2013/53

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 10, 2013

NANAIMO – Who says university is all work and no play?

First-year engineering students at Vancouver Island University got to play with popsicle sticks for a class project.

Their task? Students worked in small groups to design and build a model bridge for a replacement of the Johnson Street bridge spanning Victoria's Inner Harbour.

The popsicle bridge project was undertaken by students enrolled in instructor Brian Dick's Engineering Design II course.

On Thursday, April 11, their creative talents will be on display in the upper cafeteria at VIU's Nanaimo campus from 9 am to 4 pm.

"The goal was to build a structure that autonomously detects boat traffic, and opens the bridge deck to allow passage," says Dick. "The system must also control vehicle traffic travelling over the bridge and close the bridge deck after the boat has passed."

A number of constraints were presented to students as part of their design, one of which is its aesthetic appeal given the iconic nature of the Johnson Street bridge within the local community.

Staff, students and faculty at VIU are being asked to rank each of the bridge structures in terms of what bridge design best represents safety and adaptability, what bridge design best represents a suitable replacement for the Johnson Street bridge, and what bridge design is the best overall design.

"The display is intended to get feedback on the bridges' aesthetic appeal," says Dick. "Students will receive marks based on this feedback, from both students and a committee."

VIU offers first-year engineering courses for students interested in transferring to the University of British Columbia or the University of Victoria.

"First-year students at VIU who achieve minimum requirements in engineering are placed in a common pool with students competing for placement in second-year at UBC and UVIC," explains Dick.

"We've been running the program at VIU for a number of years and we typically have around 40 students each term," says Dick.

Student Jordan Lewin's team used 800 popsicle sticks to build their bridge, which is strong enough to hold 20 kilos. "This is an innovative course and project," says Lewin. "We learned all about problem-solving. You build something, find a bug and fix it. We've spent a full semester on this project."

Connor Duesterwald, a first-year student who graduated from Dover Bay Secondary, says VIU's engineering program provides him with an easy transition to post-secondary education. "It's great to live at home during my first year," he says. "It's been an intense program but totally worth it. I've learned so much."

Details on VIU's engineering transfer program can be found at

Figure Caption: First-year engineering students (left to right) Tyler Hollenberg, Jordan Lewin and Connor Duesterwald used 800 popsicle sticks to build their model bridge design of the Johnson Street bridge spanning Victoria's Inner Harbour.