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SMEC South Africa sponsors SAICE bridge-building competition

SMEC South Africa was a sponsor of a successful bridge-building competition hosted by the South African Institute of Civil Engineering (SAICE) on Saturday 20 May 2017 at Canal Walk in Cape Town.

A total of 31 teams from schools all over the Western Cape competed to construct the strongest and most aesthetically-pleasing wooden model bridge, all within a set time and limited construction materials. The bridges were judged according to their weight, aesthetics, and strength.

“Being a sponsor of the event, we wanted to do a little bit extra this year,” Johan Gerber, Function Manager, Structures, comments. Johan Gerber and Liandie Otto from the Structures Division in Cape Town worked with the Fisantekraal Secondary School prior to the competition.

“We discussed basic structural behaviour principles,” Gerber explains, adding that tutoring to the point of assisting the school in its design choices was not allowed, as it would undermine the intent of the competition. “There are many intuitive ways to predict why a bridge would fail in a certain way. The learners built their own trial bridges with wooden sticks in preparation for the competition, without supervision or guidance. They learned the most via this trial-and-error approach,” Gerber adds.


A total of 31 teams from Western Cape schools competed to construct the strongest, most aesthetically-pleasing wooden model brid

Fisantekraal Secondary School is a previously-disadvantaged school whose pupils are seldom exposed to environments outside of their own. Although faced with many new challenges, the pupils excelled in their design, and surpassed all expectations.


Fisantekraal Secondary School clinched 17th place, with its bridge carrying a total of 25 kg before failing.

The school took 17th place, with its bridge carrying a total of 25 kg before failing. Although this is a long way to go, the school’s optimism has not been dented, and it is eager to improve on its design. As a result, Fisantekraal Secondary School plans to compete again in next year’s competition. Brackenfell High School took first place, with its bridge carrying a staggering 295 kg before failing.

SMEC South Africa has extensive experience in the investigation, concept planning, design, documentation, verification and proof engineering of all types of steel, composite, reinforced and prestressed concrete, and cable-stayed bridges, as well as all retaining walls and associated structures.

The consulting engineering company was acknowledged for its involvement with two major bridge projects, the 140-m-long Senqu River Bridge and the four-span, stress-ribbon Pacaltsdorp Pedestrian Bridge,  at the SAICE-SAFCEC Awards gala event for the Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievements for 2015-16.

About SMEC South Africa
SMEC is a global consulting engineering firm providing high-quality, professional services on major infrastructure projects. SMEC has joined forces with Surbana Jurong, Asia’s consultancy powerhouse in the urban, infrastructure and management advisory sectors. This partnership provides a talent pool of 10 000 dedicated people working across a network of 100 offices in 40 countries throughout Asia, Australasia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. SMEC’s strength in major infrastructure projects, coupled with Surbana Jurong’s expertise in urban planning, industrial development and management advisory services, enables us to provide critical value-chain services to clients around the world.

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