Kansas FFA Blog

Break Your Bridge

Every year, a handful of students at Cherryvale High School are given the seemingly simple task of building a bridge that spans a four feet gap; I was one of those students. After completion, the bridge faces a test of strength by hanging masses in the center of the bridge and 12 inches in either direction of the center until it breaks. The bridge project begins with a few simple directions. The bridge being constructed must be built out of nothing but 1/8 inch balsa wood and the constructor’s choice of glue. No members of the bridge can be glued together alongside one another, but a 1/2 inch overlapping of members on each side of a joint is acceptable. Lastly, the final structure must not exceed 70 grams in weight. With these few constraints, construction begins with the daunting task of choosing an attractive, but sturdy design.

The idea is simple, but the work is hard. After doing research and consulting my grandpa (who was a construction foreman with a specialty in bridges) it took me hours to come up with the design I wanted. Even then, there came times throughout the process that I had to revise my design because I realized there was a better way to build this bridge.

Spending weeks measuring, cutting, gluing pieces of balsa wood together and waiting for that glue to dry was not always a fun task. There were several late nights and plenty of early mornings. Two months after the project was assigned, it was time to see just how much weight this bridge could hold.

Just like every other bridge, my hard work was eventually destroyed–snapped in half. After everything I put into this bridge, it was a little heartbreaking, but I appreciate this project. Other than the fundamental design of bridges and the role of forces, I learned three valuable lessons about leadership.

LESSON 1: Build it.

Bridge Blog 1

You can never get anywhere until you start. You learn as you go, so go ahead and start building even if you aren’t 100% sure how to do it.

LESSON 2: Perfect it.

Bridge Blog

Since you learn as you go, this is your chance to stop, evaluate what you are doing and make changes. Then finish it! Why start something if you don’t plan to complete it?

LESSON 3: Break it.

Bridge Blog 2You’ll only be able to measure your progress, your growth if you put it to the test. Break the bridge. No matter how perfect you think it is, this is how you will learn where you can improve and make it better.

Build it; perfect it; break it whether it be in sports, the classroom, leadership or even just a new interest you have.

Living To Serve,

Trenton Smedley

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