Engineers In Training: J.E.J. Moore Students Take Top Honors During 2024 Popsicle Stick Bridge Contest

February 27, 2024
J.E.J. Moore Middle School is fostering the next generation of civil engineers, as highlighted by the recent performance of several county middle school students who earned top placements during the 2024 American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Popsicle Stick Bridge Contest through their exceptional engineering skills and structurally sound designs.
On Sunday, February 25, 2024, dozens of middle and high school students traveled to the Dewey Gottwald Center at Richmond's Science Museum of Virginia to participate in a full-day competition highlighting the engineering profession. The contest provided students a unique opportunity to highlight the advantages of pursuing higher education and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) while also promoting the engineering profession to students and the community. 
bridge winners

J.E.J. Moore Middle School seventh graders Karaline Bailey (left) and Erin Middlebrooks (right) placed first and second in the efficiency rating awards at the ASCE Popsicle Stick Bridge Contest in Richmond on February 25, 2024. (PGCPS Photo)

Before the event, students constructed their bridges out of only popsicle sticks and Elmer's glue, adhering to the contest's guidelines of a maximum height of seven inches and a minimum length of 21 inches. On event day, each bridge underwent rigorous testing, including examining the load capacity of each structure under the watchful eye of volunteers from ASCE's Virginia chapter and the civil engineering profession.
Students from J.E.J. Moore Middle School entered ten bridges into the contest, with seventh graders Karaline Bailey and Erin Middlebrooks placing first and second in the efficiency rating awards, respectively, within the middle school division. Notably, Bailey's design held over 800 pounds during load testing at the event. 
The bridge designed by sixth graders Abby Boggs, Brooke Mobley, and Amber Ziegenfuss was also recognized as the event's most aesthetically pleasing bridge.
The event's date - February 25 - also doubled as the Richmond Joint Engineers Council's "Celebrating Engineering Ingenuity Day," with the popsicle bridge contest serving as one of several STEM-based activities hosted by different Richmond area engineering societies.
"Events like the popsicle stick bridge competition allow my students the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world situations," J.E.J. Moore Middle School gifted resource teacher Ms. Tonya Humphrey said. "They learn firsthand about concepts such as structural integrity and weight distribution while also collaborating with their peers and utilizing interpersonal skills, which are invaluable in any situation. Seeing my students so successful makes me proud of their ingenuity and problem-solving skills.”
Bridge Contest

J.E.J. Moore Middle School students and event participants watch as their bridge design undergoes rigorous testing as part of the ASCE Popsicle Bridge Contest event in Richmond on February 25, 2024. (PGCPS Photo)

While the event was headlined by the bridge contest, the day-long gathering of students and leading engineers and others from across the Richmond region provided a valuable networking opportunity for Moore students, who were able to ask focused questions to engineers and learn more about their jobs and potential career paths as they prepare to transition to N.B. Clements Junior High and Prince George High School in the coming months and years.
"Meeting the engineering professionals at the competition helped expose students to potential career paths and may spark an interest in engineering for them, as well," Ms. Humphrey shared. "As a gifted resource teacher, I see it as my responsibility to provide enriching activities beyond the classroom and to deliver real-world opportunities for my students to use skills they've learned while at school."
Ms. Humphrey offered positive words for the school’s two top placers after using lessons learned from last year’s competition and greater engineering knowledge to bring a stronger structure to the 2024 contest.
"Both our first-place winner, Karaline Bailey, and second-place winner, Erin Middlebrooks, from this year participated last year. They learned from their mistakes and created stronger bridges that could withstand the testing. Perseverance and the ability to learn from prior mistakes is part of having a growth mindset, and it pays off with a win," Ms. Humphrey closed.
To learn more about ASCE Richmond, visit their website at