For nearly 36 hours, they painstakingly measured, cut and glued hundreds of Popsicle sticks together to create a miniature architectural wonder, a 29-inch bridge designed to support more than 300 pounds.
On Friday, shortly after winning first place in the aesthetics category during a competition at Cal State Northridge, five students from Centers of Learning in North Hills watched as judges put their creation to the ultimate test: a hydraulic press that would calculate just how much weight it could withstand.
"We don't want to break it," 17-year-old Timothy Rice confided. "It looks so nice."
But it did break--with just 130.5 pounds of pressure. "Oh well," muttered Cassia Bradley.
Sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers' Younger Member Forum, the contest was part of an effort to reach out to children and demonstrate the importance of engineering, said Peter Braster, the group's president.
"It shows that engineering can be fun," he said. "It's not that we want everybody to be an engineer but we want everybody to have an interest in math and science classes."
In its second year, the competition drew 173 participants from 19 Los Angeles-area high schools, Braster said.
Although her bridge performed far below expectations in the weight test, Cassia wasn't disappointed. She and her teammates each went home with a scientific calculator as their prizes for the aesthetics win.
A 14-year-old freshman at the small private school, Cassia says she has always admired "bizarre and structurally creative" buildings.
"I'd love to be able to do that," she said. There's just one problem: math.
"That's something I have to get used to," she joked.