SONJA THERON

Several high school students wrestled with sticks, glue and rope at the University of Pretoria on July 23. This was the annual bridge building competition organised by the South African Institution for Civil Engineering Student Chapter (SAICE).

Inge Steinmann, Chairperson of SAICE, this is a community project to help previously disadvantaged schools. “They don’t have the money for other [bridge building] competitions,” she said, so they organise it with the help of Aurecon, which has been a sponsor for this event for the last three years.

According to Miss Steinmann, the goal of this competition is to give students “insight into civil engineering and to introduce them to the field.” Mr. Fani Xaba, Business Development Manager for Aurecon, said in a talk with the participants of the competition, “We sponsor this competition to encourage you to develop a love of science and a love of engineering.” He also highlighted the skills shortage in South Africa and referred to this exercise as a “corporate responsibility initiative.”

SAICE extended invitations to participate in the competition to schools in areas such as Atteridgeville, Mamelodi and Shosanguve. This year, four schools responded. These are Bona Lesedi High, DH Peta High, J Kekana High and Hofmeyr High.

Fourteen teams from these schools were then given the day to build a model of a bridge 700mm long and 100mm wide. They were given limited supplies and set to work with no previous experience in engineering.

At the end of the day, their work would be put to the test. Weights were added to the bridges and those that could carry the most would win. The top three teams would be given the opportunity to participate in the national bridge building competition. In addition, the winners would be given a cash prize and promotional goods from Aurecon.

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