This Global Day of the Engineer, let’s show Yukon youth that engineering can be a place for them

By: Phil Borgel, P.Eng.

North of the 60th parallel, Canada’s Yukon territory has a long history of ambitious, challenging and large-scale engineering projects that have transformed life for its residents. Faced with the rugged terrain of Canada’s north, Yukon engineers have always pioneered innovative solutions for transportation, electricity generation, mining, construction…any and all areas that impact the public, our economy and our environment.

We need to continue this great engineering tradition.

As we wrap up National Engineering Month in Canada, we celebrate the achievements of the engineers who have come before us. But we also aim to inspire the next generation who will follow in their footsteps.

Throughout March, hundreds of volunteers have been organizing and hosting events from coast to coast to coast for National Engineering Month. From engineering fairs to science Olympics; from robotic competitions to presentations to students, the engineering community has been reaching out to youth, giving them the opportunity to discover the world of engineering. And more importantly—encouraging them to discover where their interests and engineering can intersect.

In Yukon, we’ve got one final event coming up to close out our National Engineering Month celebrations for 2017. On April 8, Science Adventures, in partnership with Engineers Yukon, will be hosting the 24th Annual Yukon Bridge Building Contest in the territorial capital of Whitehorse.

More than 250 student competitors from Grades 4 to 12 will face off to see which team can build the strongest bridge out of nothing but coffee stir sticks, glue and dental floss.

Judges will add progressively heavier weights to more than 100 bridges to see just how much load they can withstand before they break. We film each bridge while it’s being tested to capture each failure, and we play it back in slow motion to capture the dynamics of the break.

Students must also write a narrative to accompany their bridge, which encourages them to think through the rationale for their chosen structural design and the important features of their bridge.

In 2015, we added a new bridge category to the competition that highlights the contribution of the engineering profession to Yukon’s development. The ALL-CAN category shines a light on the Alaska-Canadian highway, constructed during WWII to provide Yukon with a transportation link to the rest of the continent. At a length of 2,700 km and with 133 permanent bridges, the ALCAN highway established new construction practices for northern climates and has allowed continuous public and commercial traffic to Yukon ever since.

While the other categories are open only to students, the new ALL-CAN category is open to builders from businesses, organizations, families, teams or individuals and aims to foster wider participation and awareness of engineering’s role in our community.

For some, this bridge-building competition may be their first exposure to the world of engineering. But we hope it won’t be their last.

As we celebrate Global Day of the Engineer, we hope that Yukon youth will be inspired to learn more; to discover just how diverse engineering can be; to consider if engineering could in fact be a place for them to pursue their interests; and to carry on the great engineering tradition in our territory.

The Yukon Bridge Building Contest gets underway at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 8, 2017, at Porter Creek Secondary School in Whitehorse, YT. Members of the public are invited to attend. Engineers Yukon and Science Adventures, Yukon College would like to thank ATCO Electric, CAP Engineering, ch2m, Nuway Crushing Ltd., Associated Engineering, Boreal Engineering, Klondike Welding, Skookum, Alexco Environmental Group, Castle Rock Enterprises, Dorward Engineering, Mobile Maintenance Services, Morrison Hershfield, Northern Climate Engineering Ltd., Pelly Construction, Impact Well Drilling and Sidhu Trucking who make the annual bridge building competition possible.

April 3rd, 2017