History of the Competition
Since 2010, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) has been partnering with the USF College of Engineering to sponsor the Annual USF-SE Balsa Bridge Competition at the USF Engineering Expo along with the help of the USF ASCE Student chapter. This free fun-filled event is open to the public and promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (S.T.E.M.) education to middle school and high school students and provides students an opportunity to meet local engineers and engineering student organizations at USF. The Engineering Expo also features hands-on exhibits and shows that aim to encourage more students to pursue fields in science and mathematics. At the USF-SE Balsa Bridge Competition, middle and high school students from Hillsborough and Pinellas County, showcase their engineering skills as their wood bridge creations are tested to find out which bridge can withstand the most weight and pressure. The student-run competition began in the 1980’s, with the goal of connecting underrepresented middle and high school students to careers in engineering fields. It also provided a fun, extra-curricular educational enrichment opportunity to promote the S.T.E.M. philosophies. The competition’s theme of Design It, Build It, Break It! allows teams of three students to design and build model bridges from balsa wood and then test their load capacities. Teachers and their student teams are encouraged to watch an instructional video on the Workshop webpage which provides an opportunity to prepare for the competition and develop lesson plans that incorporate engineering and design with math and science through bridge building processes.
Through its partnership with USF, THEA seeks to support community events that provide mentorship, encourage the STEM mindset, and raise the educational opportunities for Tampa Bay area students. The Balsa Bridge Competition is a branch of THEA’s Selmon S.T.E.M. Scholarship (S3) Program. Lee Roy Selmon, a member of NFL Hall of Fame, and former Athletic Director at USF and the Expressway's namesake and THEA partnered to create the S3 Program, which provides opportunities and exposure to students about careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The program features outreach to Bay area high schools, the USF College of Engineering’s Wood Bridge-Building Competition, monetary scholarships, and paid internships at the THEA.
John Herrick is a Civil Engineer, who is certified in eight states. Herrick is one of the founders of the USF-SE Balsa Bridge Competition, and has been breaking student bridges for almost 40 years. The strongest student bridge he has seen was a bridge by Charlie Worscheck, which withstood almost 700 pounds, and challenges you to beat it.
Lee Roy Selmon
Lee Roy Selmon is an award winning football lineman. Selmon was the first-ever NFL draft pick for the Tampa bay Buccaneers and was awarded the Buccaneer’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards after his first year. Selmon was award with other awards in his career, including being inducted into the NFL Football Hall of fame. After retiring, Selmon aided the community through areas such as serving as President of the University of South Florida (USF) Foundation Partnership for Athletics, and athletics fund organization.
Selmon was honored with a State Road being named after him, which was later converted to All Electronic Tolling (AET) Road, The Selmon Expressway. Selmon, through the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA), started the Selmon S.T.E.M. Scholarship (S3) Program with USF, which helps promotes and encourages the learning of sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics though scholarships and internships towards the higher education in engineering and supporting the USF-SE Balsa Bridge Competition. [Source: THEA]
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) is a user-financed public agency led by a Board of local citizens. Operating with no tax dollars, THEA develops and owns toll highways, including Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, as well as non-tolled roads, including Brandon Parkway and Meridian Avenue. All tolls collected by THEA are reinvested back into projects in Hillsborough County. [Source: Tampa X-Way]
The USF-SE Balsa Bridge Competition is hosted during USF's Engineering Expo. Here USF Students that are part of the College of Engineering showcases projects and interactive actives that students of all ages can learn and participate in.
Information on dates are announced around February.
USF College of Engineering
The College of Engineering is full of excitement, discovery and opportunity. It's the perfect place to bring your interests and curiosity. The engineering community is characterized by a diversity of people, ideas, experiences and opportunities that will broaden your knowledge and understanding. Among these opportunities are excellent offerings in these engineering academic areas: chemical, civil, computer science, computer engineering, electrical, industrial, information technology and mechanical. Take some time to explore all the programs the college has to offer. [Source: USF College of Engineering ]