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Kaniva College sets new record winning international schools bridge building competition

Bridge made of balsa wood withstands massive 372kg load

Kaniva College from western Victoria was today named international winner of top engineering company Aurecon’s international bridge building competition, triumphing over hundreds of schools from across Australia and New Zealand with a bridge that withstood an incredible 372kg load.

Against fierce competition with Victorian schools, Kaniva College secured first place in the Victorian leg of the competition, held at Scienceworks Museum in Spotswood on Wednesday 7 August.

More than 1000 Year 8 and 9 students from across Australia and New Zealand this month put their balsa wood, string, cardboard and glue-based bridge designs to the test at 10 separate events with Kaniva College’s bridge proving to be the strongest overall.

The winning bridge was designed by Kaniva College students Chayle Goodwin, Jack Braisby and Jaymie-Lee Spillman. The team wins $1500 for their school and individual prizes for each team member of $200 courtesy of sponsor VicRoads.

“Our students made the long trek to Melbourne with a bridge that was similar in design to last year’s bridge, with a few modifications that they thought should improve its capacity,” said Kaniva College science teacher David Staehr.

“They had an expectation that they would break 100kg and hopefully push last year’s winning mark of 135.7kg.

“It is hard to believe that their modifications could have such a phenomenal impact on the bridge’s strength.

“They are still in shock and in awe of their achievement,” David said.

Aurecon Senior Bridge Engineer and competition judge Chris Halpin said the students’ design was an improvement on last year’s and comprised a fairly simple yet sturdy balsa wood truss, with some very clever additions.

“The students used sections of the cardboard tube to strengthen the loading zones and compression members and to resist against buckling, tensioned string to assist the tension members and applied extra balsa wood strengthening to critical joints.

“Workmanship was excellent and the bridge proved to be solid as a rock,” Chris said.

Competition judges assessed each bridge for workmanship, creativity and visual appeal and this score was combined with the maximum load supported to determine the overall score.

At each venue around the country, students, teachers and organisers cheered as individual bridges were loaded with weight.

“By providing school students with a practical and engaging experience in engineering, we hope that they will take up elective STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects as they progress through their high school education,” said William Cox, Aurecon’s General Manager for Australia and New Zealand.

Aurecon organises this event across Australia to coincide with Australian Engineering Week, a celebration of the diversity and depth of engineering by industry body, Engineers Australia.

The event is supported by national sponsor MLC, the wealth management division of the National Australia Bank (NAB).

Competition – quick facts

Across Australia and New Zealand in 2013, more than 1000 students participated in the Aurecon Bridge Building Competition.

Using materials and guidelines supplied by Aurecon, year 8 and 9 students designed and built model bridges in teams of three.  The bridges were tested to destruction to see which one held the greatest load.

Bridge design experts from Aurecon and its clients assessed the bridges for workmanship, creativity and visual appeal to determine the overall score.

Auckland: King’s College, 130.1kg
Christchurch: Papanui High School, 46.7kg
New South Wales: Baulkham Hills High School, 87kg
Northern Territory: Marrara Christian College, 15.5kg
Queensland (central): Emerald Christian College, 129.1kg
Queensland (south-east): Cecil Plains State School, 113.4kg
South Australia: Cabra Dominican College, 45.67kg
Victoria: Kaniva College, 372kg (international winner)
Wellington: Newlands College, 38kg
Western Australia: Mercedes College, 59kg

St Laurence’s College
HEB Construction
New Zealand Transport Authority
Engineers Australia
Consult Australia
Civil, Mining & Construction
WICET (Wigginis Island Coal Export Terminal),
CQ University
Dwyer Engineering

About Aurecon

Aurecon provides engineering, management and specialist technical services for government and private sector clients globally. With an office network extending across 26 countries, Aurecon has been involved in projects in more than 80 countries across Africa, Asia Pacific and the Middle East and employs around 7 500 people across 11 industry groups: 


               Data & telecommunications




               International development assistance







Please visit www.aurecongroup.com for further information.