SHSU logo
media info
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Today@Sam |  Headlines |  Calendar |  Experts  |  Notices |  Archives |  Search

Summer Camp Teaches Youngsters More Than Simple Math

Philip Klespis, left, and Kyle Coleman watch as their bridge of toothpicks crumbles. The two participated in the "Projecting for Future Summer Math/Science Camp" held at Sam Houston State June 10-21.

Local public and private school students learned about mathematics and architecture June 10-21 when they attended Sam Houston State University's "Projecting for Future Summer Math/Science Camp."

Fifteen students from Conroe, Willis and Huntsville school districts as well as Heritage, Alpha Omega and Covenant Christian Academies going into grades six through eight participated in the camp.

Jan Scott, SHSU associate professor and camp conductor, said the students learned a great deal about the thorough preparation and planning architects face when designing structures such as bridges.

"The students learned the vocabulary and geometry of bridges, construction and simple tools," said Scott, who just finished her first year teaching at Sam Houston State.

"Following an internet search, the students built a time line of famous U.S. bridges. They designed and sketched the prospective bridge on graph paper, determined the amount of material (toothpicks) needed, and the cost of those materials based on their design," she said.

Scott said the purpose of using the toothpicks to construct the bridges was to determine the strengths and weaknesses of different designs and the limitations of different types of bridges such as arch, cable-stayed, beam and suspension.

"We investigated the properties of a triangle, rectangles, pentagons and arches, testing for the strength and stability of the shape," she said. "The objective was to design and build the most weight-efficient bridge constructed of toothpicks. Each bridge was center-loaded using a large can suspended with a string looped over the roadbed of the bridge. Weights were placed in the can until the bridge collapsed."

Scott said the camp was a success and the children gained valuable hands-on experience in the field of mathematics.

"It has truly been an incredible experience," she said. "What the kids can come up with always amazes me. The bridge wrecking was part of the lesson. The students cheered for the other groups' bridges and moaned when each one collapsed. They were amazed at the amounts of weight the bridges held."

Awards were given to the students who had the most successful bridges. Award winners were as follows:

  • Supreme Strength Award: Grace Anna Petrash (Mance Park Middle School, Huntsville I.S.D.) and Allie Blair (Covenant Christian Academy, Conroe)

  • Efficiency Award: Grace Anna Petrash and Allie Blair

  • Low Bid Award: Grace Anna Petrash and Allie Blair

  • Best Technically Designed Award: Margaret Graham (Alpha Omega Academy) and Esther Hudson (Huntsville Intermediate)

  • Architectural Merit Award: Tiffany Liang (Mitchell Intermediate, The Woodlands), Alex Puente (Huntsville Intermediate) and Kathy Perla (Huntsville Intermediate)

  • Aesthetic Award: Kyle Coleman (Covenant Christian), Philip Klespis (Huntsville Intermediate), and Chris Barrow (Huntsville Intermediate)

Scott was assisted by Sam Houston State undergraduate middle school mathematics specialist Amber Ondras, Texas A&M undergraduate engineering major Aaron Morris and Huntsville High School student Kevin Dean.

The students listened to and conducted investigations with several professionals. Cheryl Quinn, landscape architect in Bellaire who specializes in large land development, stopped by to lend her expertise as well as Dwain Scott, landscape architect with a specialty in environmental restoration.

Three members of the Texas Department of Transportation, Kayvon Jahedkar (bridge engineer), Sherry Williams (design engineer) and Richard Courtney (bridge inspection coordinator) gave the students information on bridges in Texas and spoke in depth on the current construction in Huntsville at the intersection of Highway 30 and Interstate 45.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Brandon Autrey
July 17, 2002
Please send comments, corrections, news tips to

This page maintained by SHSU's Office of Public Relations
Director: Frank Krystyniak
Communications Coordinator: Julia May
Located in the SHSU University Advancement Building
Telephone: 936.294.1836; Fax: 936.294.1834
feedback graphic