THE South African National Roads Agency SOC Ltd (SANRAL) presented its third annual bridge building competition in Port Elizabeth during the July school holidays.The event was hosted at SANRAL Southern Region’s Road Materials Testing Lab in Struandale, in conjunction with Unity in Africa Foundation’s Incubating Great Engineering Minds (iGEMs), a leadership development incubator and education to employment programme. The SANRAL bridge building competition was one of a series of workshops, site visits and projects during the July school holiday for the iGEMs learners. Around 34 academically deserving Grade 11 and 12 pupils from disadvantaged and socioeconomic vulnerable backgrounds from 18 schools in Nelson Mandela Bay participated in the competition. The event offered a glimpse into the world of civil engineering but also allowed learners to put their creativity, team skills and future engineering skills to the test.Based on the format and rules of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering’s (SAICE) bridge building competition, learners had to design and then build model bridges using only wooden sticks, rope and glue in a limited time following functional specifications and construction methods. The bridges were judged on aesthetics, weight and structural strength. In relation to the latter, suspended weights literally stretched the bridges to breaking point in an ultimate showdown between the 10 teams.Litha Nohashe from Motherwell is a pupil from Woolhope High School who is eager to become an entrepreneur which will help him to reverse the situation of his family at home one day, he said. “Civil engineering is interesting and I strongly recommend it to those who think it is boring. The bridge building competition surprised me because I am not a creative person. “The event opened my eyes in terms of understanding my character and the way I do things.”“As the world goes on, things have to be developed to keep with times. “Engineers are the ones responsible for that. Everything revolves around engineering if you think about it. We are the people that make everyone’s lives easier,” he said. Sonwabiso Nyanga, a learner from Newton Technical High School and resident of Kwa-Dwesi, said the competition was an eye opening event.“For me, the event was an eye-opener because I was not sure which career to choose. So, by doing things practically it was fun to see what goes into building and the materials you have to take into account.“Engineering is a very vast career field because you can see how things are developing. More technology is used and engineering guarantees that there is something to do and something to look forward to because we are moving the world forward,” she said.SANRAL announced that later this month it will host an induction event for the scholarships and bursaries that will be awarded to learners in the Eastern Cape.