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Ward Melville student wins bridge-building contest

Justin Zhang, a junior at Ward Melville High

Justin Zhang, a junior at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, won first place in the 2019 Model Bridge Building Contest at Brookhaven National Laboratory. Photo Credit: Zhang family

A Ward Melville High School student took the top spot in a Brookhaven National Laboratory competition that challenged participants to design, construct and test model bridges.

Justin Zhang, a junior at the East Setauket school, placed first in the 2019 Model Bridge Building Contest. Second place went to Gary Nepravishta, a freshman at Division Avenue High School in Levittown.

Both Zhang, 16, and Nepravishta, 14, qualified for the international contest, held earlier this month in Baltimore.

"I really love civil engineering," Zhang said. "Through the competition, I was able to improve upon the ideas that I had developed in years prior, working on engineering challenges, and apply some new things that I had learned."

In this year's contest, 132 students from 15 high schools registered their model bridges. Fifty-two of  them qualified for the regional competition, which was decided last month.

The model bridges, made of basswood, were required to have two support surfaces, separated in elevation by 10 millimeters. Each bridge was judged on efficiency, calculated by using the weight of the bridge and amount of weight it could support before breaking, or bending more than 1 inch.

Zhang's bridge weighed 12.75 grams, with an efficiency of 2819.03, while Nepravishta's bridge weighed 18.2 grams with an efficiency of 1949.45.

Benjamin Farina, a sophomore at Elwood-John H. Glenn High School, won the award for best-looking bridge.

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