Bridge building debuts at Rifle High |

Bridge building debuts at Rifle High

Rifle High School physics teacher David Ziegler is introducing an exciting new type of competition. The Western Slope Bridge Building Competition will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31, in the commons area of the school.

Ziegler’s intentions are to begin a competition and establish Rifle High School as the place to come for scaled bridge building competition for schools all over the Western Slope.

Earlier this year, Ziegler applied for and received a school district mini-grant to help pay for the costs of a Kelvin Bridge and Tower Tester, a measuring device needed for this new form of competition.

The device is a metal frame structure that supports the tested bridge. It has a pneumatic press with a pressure gauge, which reads how much force is applied until the bridge breaks.

The single criteria for determining the winner will be which bridge can hold the most mass compared to its own weight.

Participants bring bridges pre-built to certain specifications. All the bridges are to be made out of basswood, similar to balsa wood.

The specifications are the same as the International Bridge Building competition, which has a regional competition in Denver in February. Participants with winning bridges can compete there if they chose.

Normally an animated and enthusiastic teacher, Ziegler takes it to a whole new level when he talks about the bridge building competition. He taught in Washington for nine years, where he acquired a passion for bridge building and its benefits to architectural students, before coming back to the Rifle area and Garfield Re-2.

Ziegler teaches physics and chemistry in contexts that matter to students. Skid testing, accident reconstructions and bridge design are done to demonstrate the purpose and function of physics.

“Bridge building is especially rewarding for students because they can really get involved and have much ownership in their projects – sometimes so much they don’t want to break their bridge,” said Ziegler.

Ziegler hopes some physics applications are solidified in the minds of students and that they see the relevance of physics and the importance of quality design and building.

He anticipates the competition will generate some excitement and raise the level of performance of the students. He thinks bridge building “bridges the gap” between knowledge and true learning.

Teachers in other districts who want to join the competition may contact him at 625-7761 or by e-mail at

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