The 51st Annual Colorado High School Bridge Building Competition at the Denver Federal Center on February 24

Event will be at the Bureau of Reclamation's laboratory in Building 56 at the Denver Federal Center

Media Contact: Peter Soeth, 303-445-3615,

For Release: February 23, 2018

A student places their bridge for testing at the 2017 Colorado High School Bridge Building Competition.
A student places their bridge for testing at the 2017 Colorado High School Bridge Building Competition.
DENVER - The Bureau of Reclamation is set to host the 51st annual Colorado High School Bridge Building Contest at Reclamation's laboratory located at the Denver Federal Center, on February 24, 2018. The competition will begin at 8 a.m. and ends about noon with the grand finale: the crushing of a 1,500 lb. concrete cylinder in a 5-million-pound press.

This competition is open to the public and is a great way to introduce engineering to the family. Tours of the lab are provided throughout the event.

High school student winners are eligible to win scholarships and cash prizes to put toward a degree in engineering. Several professional engineers will be on-hand to meet with students, and to discuss what it's like to have a career in the engineering field.

Prizes include scholarships donated by the PEC, ACEC and the American Public Works Association. Additionally, students can win calculators and savings bonds donated by Reclamation employees. The top two winners from each of the two regions are then eligible to participate in the International Bridge Building Contest which will take place in Chicago this April.

Students construct model bridges to conform to specifications established by the PEC contest committee. Students construct their model bridges using wood and glue. The contest limits the allowable weight of each bridge. Each bridge is then tested by applying an increasing load until it breaks -- an occasionally dramatic event resulting in pieces of the bridge flying off the testing machine. The winning bridges are determined by the highest efficiency numbers, which is the maximum weight the bridge can hold divided by the weight of the bridge. In the past, some bridges have held more than 20,000 times their own weight!

The Colorado High School Bridge Building Contest began in 1968 with the aim of building bridges between students and engineering professionals. Reclamation has been a co-sponsor and host of the contest since 1974. Other sponsors include the Professional Engineers of Colorado (PEC) and the American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado.

To learn more about the upcoming contest, visit:

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier in the United States, and the nation's second largest producer of hydroelectric power. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.