Students Become Toothpick Engineers

April 15, 2021 | Education | Maurita Crew

What can you make with 750 or fewer toothpicks and wood glue?

Students from Montana's Trout Creek Adventist School created bridges — not just an art project bridge, but a bridge that can hold a lot of weight. This year all nine students in grades one to seven built a toothpick bridge that spanned 12 inches and was 4 inches wide.

An idea bridge was presented to the students, then they started creating their own designs. The two students in grades one and two worked together to create a bridge, and the rest of the students worked independently.

Bridges were spray-painted after every toothpick was counted to make sure each student did not go over the 750 toothpick limit. Each bridge was named and the engineer also predicted how much weight they thought their bridge would hold. Last school year none of the bridges built held more than 200 pounds, so this year the students aimed to beat last year’s record.

It was a smashing success. Two students reaching beyond 200 pounds, and all the bridges holding more than 100 pounds. The top three engineers were Jessica Evans at 235 pounds, Taylinn Craik at 225 pounds and Matney Pieper at 195 pounds.

This project takes a lot of perseverance and precision. The contest was held at the local grange hall, and the crowd was loud and enthusiastic for every bridge builder. The local newspaper front-page story of the event generated a lot of attention. There is talk about adding an adult division for next year’s contest.