future of work

Teaching & Classroom

New York

Bridge-building no metaphor at engineering-themed high school

Ninth-grader Ikiya Devonish prepares to load weight onto her group's bridge, with the help of City Tech Professor Anthony Cioffi. Many schools have summer "bridge" programs to bring new students up to speed. City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology has ninth-graders build actual bridges. The two-year-old school's summer orientation program includes a bridge-building competition where incoming freshmen can showcase their newly acquired engineering skills. The orientation kicks off an intensive program that condenses all of high school plus a taste of college into three years. That's a steep challenge for many students at the Downtown Brooklyn school, which admits students without considering their grades or test scores. But school officials say about three-quarters of the small school's first entering class is on track to spend a fourth year studying full-time at the New York City College of Technology, the high school's partner, free of charge. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott attended this year's competition today, offering congratulations and consolations as students pushed their popsicle-stick bridges to the breaking point. Tension mounted as students, teachers, and supporters watched to see whether any bridges would bear more than last year's record 109 pounds. One bridge did: The winning team, Building Fanatics, loaded 114 pounds of geometry textbooks onto their structure before it collapsed. Stephon Stevens, a ninth-grader who came to City Poly from Explore Charter School, said the team guessed that moving popsicle sticks from the bottom to the top of the bridge design would make it stronger. Four of every five students at City Poly are boys, in keeping with a trend that cuts across many of the city's career and technical education schools.