Skokie teen a natural bridge-builder

June 1, 2010 (SKOKIE)

There are natural athletes, musicians, or artists, but 16-year old Fiona West of Skokie has a natural talent to build bridges.

Sometimes the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and that appears to be the case for the Chris West of Skokie and Fiona, a sophomore at Evanston Township High School.

Chris is an electrical engineer and computer programmer. Fiona is the recent winner of the international bridge building competition that took place in Philadelphia in May. She beat fifty three other high schoolers from around the world in this test of design and strength.

"I researched on the computer when I was first making my practice one for school," said Fiona. "When it sort of broke, I would like fix anything that was wrong about it, and I kept going and with each bridge they got better."

The bridges had to be very light in weight but at the same time be able to support heavy loads of fifty pounds or more. Fiona's bridge was special. Her basswood creation weighs just seven tenths of an ounce and it supported over one hundred pounds before it broke.

And no! She didn't get help from dad.

"Fiona West built it because she's proud enough that it had to be her design and she wouldn't let me touch it," said Chris. "She wouldn't let me build anything."

One of the most amazing things about this is that Fiona started this project just five months ago over the Christmas holiday. She built one bridge in just two days. The young lady is a natural.

As a preschooler, all she ever wanted to play with were the building blocks.

"I think she'll make a great structural engineer or civil engineer one day," said Chris

"Definitely something with engineering or architecture-related stuff like that," said Fiona.

Two months ago, Fiona won the bridge contest at the Illinois Institute of Technology. That brings her a four-year, $15,000-a-year scholarship to IIT. Her creation is her bridge to the future.

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