Hundreds of students from across Wagga and Coolamon descended on the showgrounds for the annual science and engineering challenge this week.
230 year 9 and 10 school students from all high schools in the city and Coolamon Central School took part in a series of brain-bending challenges at the Kyeamba Smith Hall.
The day featured eight different activities ranging from constructing earthquake-proof shelter to creating a bionic hand, constructing a vehicle capable of driving on Mars and creating a code using flashing coloured lights.
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All schools compete in each activity and competition team leader Chris Hendry said while all of the activities are popular, the highlight is usually the bridge challenge.
"That tends to be the most popular," Mr Hendry said.
The bridge challenge has been part of the program since the challenge began and involves teams given about four hours to construct a bridge that will withstand the highest weight load.
Mr Hendry said the testing takes place at the end of the day, making it the "grand finale."
"It's the one activity every single student gets to see the testing of [the student's work]," he said.
Year 9 student Rebekah Law and her Wagga Christian College team spent the day hard at work constructing a bridge to beat them all.
"We're building a bridge out of balsa wood, pop sticks and all different types of materials that can carry a lot of weight on a trolley that goes across it," Rebekah said.
Weighing into how she thinks her team will go, Rebekah was quite sure they can get the job done.
"I think we will do pretty well," she said.
"We've tested it out a little bit to the point we think we are very confident with the bridge."
After completing school, Rebekah hopes to join the Australian Defence Force and said the challenge is providing a lot of knowledge to help her out with that career.
"I'd like to be a pilot, but there's a lot of other jobs I'd like to look at if I can't get into that," she said.
Meanwhile, in the Helter Skelter Shelter challenge, Year 9 Wagga Christian College student Oscar Nugent and his team of four put their best efforts into building a tower that could survive an earthquake while loaded up with weights.
To complete the challenge, they were restricted to using straws, masking tape, paper and cardboard.
"We had to make a tower that can withstand weights in the first test," Oscar said.
"Unfortunately, ours didn't go too well holding two weights, but other groups managed to hold up to five."
Then came the earthquake test.
"For that, we put our tower in a little machine that shakes it, simulating an earthquake," he said.
"So we pretty much made a shelter to withstand an earthquake with the weights on top of it."
While they didn't win that challenge, Oscar remained optimistic.
"We gave it our best shot, tried our best and had some fun," he said.
Oscar is a keen STEM student and hopes to one day work as an engineer.
"At this stage I'd probably like to work in civil or mechanical engineering," he said.
Coordinator of the science and engineering challenge and Kooringal Rotary president Trevor Webb said the program has been running for 14 years and aims to encourage students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
"Our main goal is to try and get Year 9 and 10 students to take the right subjects in Year 11 and 12 to study science and engineering at university," Mr Webb said.
He said there is a lack of engineers in Australia.
"There are more overseas engineers than there are Australian engineers," he said.
"This challenge gives students the grounding and a bit of hands-on experience."
On Friday organisers are expecting about the same numbers again, this time it will be Year 5 and 6 students primary schools across Wagga and also from Tumbarumba.
Data from the 2016 survey of past students in the challenge found 28 per cent were influenced by the challenge to study maths, while 24 per cent were influenced to study chemistry and 49 per cent were influenced to study physics.
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