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Kaniva College sets new record winning international bridge building competition

Kaniva College

13 August 2013 - Kaniva College from western Victoria was today named international winner of 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.

More than 1 000 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, designed by Kaniva College students Chayle Goodwin, Jack Braisby and Jaymie-Lee Spillman, was tested last week at Scienceworks Museum in Spotswood. The team won AUD1 500 for their school and individual prizes for each team member of AUD200 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.

Using materials and guidelines supplied by Aurecon, Year 8 and 9 students (Year 9 and 10 in New Zealand) designed and built model bridges in teams of three. The bridges were tested to destruction to see which one held the greatest load. 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.

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

View image gallery of this year's Bridge Building Competition


  • 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


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


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