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Do not ruin your bridge from the start by using bad popsicle sticks. Learn what the best popsicle sticks look like, and how to sort through all the bad ones.

Popsicle Sticks

Not all popsicle sticks are equal

If you have been given a project of building a popsicle stick bridge, there is something you should know. Probably one half of the popsicle sticks that come from Wal-Mart or other store are bent, twisted, or otherwise deformed. And obviously deformed popsicle sticks won’t be as strong as straight ones. If you don’t pay attention to what popsicle sticks you are putting on your bridge, you could end up with a weak bridge.

Examine the popsicle sticks

Simply looking at the popsicle sticks will give you a good idea on which ones are good and bad. I normally start sorting the popsicle sticks into two piles. All the popsicle sticks I definitely will not use go into one pile, and the better ones into another pile.

You want to eliminate popsicle sticks that are bent, twisted, or have knots. Twisted popsicle sticks are a big problem because they don’t glue flat to each other. This creates a much weaker joint. Some popsicle sticks are shaped in a “U” down their entire length. It could be said these popsicle sticks are shaped like a trough. These are almost as bad as twisted popsicle sticks for the same reason.

Bad Characteristics:

  • Knots
  • Twisted
  • Bent
  • Bad grain structure

Sorting the popsicle sticks

I mentioned above that I make two piles of popsicle sticks: a “bad” pile and a “good” pile. And if I want the bridge to be extremely strong, I split the “good” pile into two new piles. In this second round of sorting, I will examine the grain structure of each popsicle stick, and make sure that each one is perfectly straight. The extra time taken ensures I will have the best of the best popsicle sticks.

Grain Structure

The grain structure on popsicle sticks can be hard to see. But if you really want the absolute best sticks, you need to consider the grain. You want the grain to be parallel to the stick, and not on a diagonal. This is especially important for popsicle sticks that will be in tension.

How much does a popsicle stick weigh?

I found the average weight of a popsicle stick to be 1.49 grams. To find this average, I weighed 71 popsicle sticks picked randomly from my box of 1000 and weighed them with my gram scale.

Where to Buy Popsicle Sticks

Amazon has some great deals to buy inexpensive popsicle sticks. Here are some options:

From left to Right: 500 sticks, 300 sticks, 200 sticks, 50 sticks

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24 Responses to “Popsicle Sticks”

  1. Dr P R Kumar - July 29, 2008 at 1:55 am

    Hi.. there…

    We are planning to organize a students’ activity program related to Civil Engineering.
    Could you please, send us some useful materials for organizing “brifge models”? We expect tips to build ‘model bridges, residentials buildings etc”.

    Thank you for your valuable help.
    Kind regards,
    Dr P R Kumar
    Professor
    Department of Civil Engineeirng
    Amal Jyothi College of Engineering
    Kanjirappally, Koovappally
    Kerala – 686518
    INDIA
    TeL: +919995473734
    Web: http://dr.prkumar.googlepages.com

  2. Garrett Boon - July 31, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Dr. Kumar, you might want to check out my 5 Steps to Building a Model Bridge ebook on this page:
    http://www.garrettsbridges.com/design/5steps/

  3. Jane Ellis - February 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    As a parent whose kid doesn’t remember or take notes on “the” project your website was a life saver!!! The classroom instructions had the basics but I needed much more information
    I find out today how well our bridge went.
    Thank you for putting the information on the internet.

    Jane

  4. jordan - September 7, 2010 at 6:40 am

    i need blueprints that i can print out or something cause i have a school project and it has to be 14 inches and can suport up to 110 pounds help please

  5. lyla - January 13, 2011 at 2:40 am

    I need help thinking of a good design for a bridge with a maximum of 500 sticks that can carry close to 300lbs.

    • Garrett Boon - January 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      Lyla, for design ideas check out my truss design page.

  6. Josh - April 3, 2011 at 12:25 am

    I need a good desing to hold 50-100lbs with 40 sticks

    • Garrett Boon - April 3, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      Josh, how long does your bridge need to be?

  7. Joshua - April 4, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    15 in

    • Garrett Boon - April 6, 2011 at 4:09 am

      That’s a hard design. Here is a bridge I built using only 40 popsicle sticks. But it was only 13 inches long, and held 90 pounds over a span of 12 inches. You could use a similar design but make it slightly longer.

  8. Sherri - April 5, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Please Help Me, its Urgent!!!
    I am building a popsicle stick bridge for a science fair. Requirements: The bridge must be 90 cm long, 7-9 cm wide, and no taller than 15 cm. It also needs to be less than 200 grams. What design would you recommend for this bridge? I’ve tried some but they don’t seem to be strong enough to hold 100 lbs or more. I would really appreciate your help, thanks.

    • Garrett Boon - April 6, 2011 at 4:04 am

      If you use a basic truss, such as the Warren, Pratt or Howe, you will be set up for success. The next key is figuring out where you need to reinforce the bridge in order to hold that weight. If you plug your design into the Bridge Designer (http://www.jhu.edu/virtlab/bridge/truss.htm) it will help you see which parts of the bridge will be holding the most weight.

      • Alec - August 25, 2011 at 12:46 am

        Alec
        hi the bridge designer website you mentioned above is no avaliable any more can you direct me to another one please.
        thanks heaps
        Alec

        • Garrett Boon - August 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm

          Alec, sorry there was a typo. Try the link again and it should work.

  9. Josh - April 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    thank you so much my bridge got 93 pounds before collapsing

  10. Faith Oostra - September 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    i am making a popsicle bridge in class we are tring to make it have 199 lb.

  11. Anish_loving - September 22, 2011 at 4:08 am

    sir i want to know that which type of trauss i should use in making 130cm long bridge
    and the main challange is that it should have two supporting towers each at a distance of 15cm from the end, please help me in designing it and also suggest some tip for making tower atleast it should hold 40 kgs. ITS URGENT

  12. ayush sharma - October 15, 2011 at 6:15 am

    sir,how can i make a bridge of not more than 200 popsicle sticks,whose span should be 500mm,width-100mm,height 200mm,.i have to submit it on monday(17-10-2011)..
     

  13. Tom - February 26, 2012 at 8:30 am

    is there any artist using ice cream sticks to do to art?

  14. chandrakant niraj - April 3, 2012 at 8:15 am

    sir, i want to make popsicle bridge in my college event.so please u give me some instructon in my e-mail thanks……….

    • lucas - April 23, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      yourbridge should be strong

  15. Brandon - January 7, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Have you ever made a bridge that you put under a car of a tire because that’s my Science Project

  16. Mona - February 8, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Sir, my daughter wants to build 3 bridges for 6 grade science fair using the scientific method to compare and validate her hypothesis. Which three designs you recommend? Thank you very much

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