The Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy (PMSA) freshman class assembled Monday afternoon in the school’s cafeteria to break their physics projects.

No, this was not a student-led revolt against the school’s rigorous curriculum. The students were testing the endurance of miniature bridges they had built in an effort to qualify for the 32nd Annual Chicago Regional Bridge Building Contest.

A bucket was attached to each student’s bridge, and with judges looking on, sand was poured in until the bridges reached their breaking point. Though all students were required to participate, only the top four will advance to the regional contest, to be held Feb. 7 at the Illinois Institute of Technology. About 100 area schools participate in the contest, according to physics teacher Carl Martikean.

“I think the fun and excitement of building something and then destroying it, testing the limits of your design and seeing what it can hold, is certainly a very real world application of physics and engineering,” said Ed Moyer, facilitator for Math, Science and Humanities at PMSA.

The students were first required to submit blueprints for their proposed bridge to Martikean, and were then allowed to begin work. Students worked individually, but were permitted to consult with one another for advice.

Still, a spirit of competition developed.

“Me and my friends wanted to see which lasts the longest. My friend’s just broke right there so I’m going to see if I can outlast him,” said Forest Park resident Pradeep Chawla while waiting for his bridge to be judged.

Bridges were judged by PMSA faculty on craftsmanship and symmetry, according to Moyer, “but the real performance test is how much weight can it hold.” In cases where two bridges were able to hold the same weight, the smaller and therefore more efficient bridge was declared winner.

Martikean said that most students’ bridges endured about 5 kilograms of weight, though some made it all the way up to 10 kilograms before giving in.

According to Martikean, the project will help the class transition into its next area of study. “We’re going to end up analyzing in the next section the forces that are being distributed on their bridges and why they broke the way they did,” he said.

“The project was fun to work on, but hard at the same time. It was exciting to see what real-life engineers have to go through in creating sturdy bridges,” said Carynn Swiatkowski of Forest Park.

The four winners of the contest were Yolanda Mariscal of Maywood, Tyler Hillert of Maywood, Andriy Adaskevych of Westchester and Claudia Chavez of Maywood.