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TCC Engineering Club wins Structural Ingenuity Award

Engineering Club students work on a bridge design made out of cansWile E. Coyote would have loved it. So did the Canstruction judges.

Tidewater Community College’s magnificently designed self-supporting arched bridge spelling H-U-N-G-E-R won the coveted Structural Ingenuity Award at Canstruction 2013. The display constructed by the TCC Engineering Club used nearly 13,000 cans – the most of any entry – and included plungers connected to dynamite underneath with long fuses.

“The idea is Wile E. Coyote and how he’s always blowing stuff up, hence ‘End Hunger with a Bang,’ ” said Kim Greene, Engineering Club president. “The arch with two mountains on either side is supposed to look like the Mesas.”

Canstruction combines the competitive spirit of a design/build contest with a unique way to feed the hungry. All entries will be on display at Selden Arcade through Nov. 25. The food, donated by Farm Fresh, will be given to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia. PBS Newshour also filmed a segment on the TCC entry that will air the week of Nov. 25.

“This idea came in on the last day,” said Steve Machamer, part of the building team.

Constructing the arch composed of 1,400 tuna cans was daunting. The arch used 80 wedges with 2.3-degree angles between each can. Students relied on a wooden semicircle block to build the arch, but had to remove the block, accomplished by lowering four car jacks, for final display. The concern: Would the arch be able to support the weight of roughly 700 pounds of food?

“When the arch held, everyone erupted in cheers,” said engineering professor Paul Gordy, an advisor for Canstruction for the last 16 years.

The students spent weeks finalizing design plans and completing a “practice build” in the Advanced Technology Center. The structure was then dismantled and taken to Selden Arcade, where club members had six hours to recreate it, working until midnight.

The finished structure stands 10′ x 10′ x 8′.