Popsicle Sticks

By on June 13, 2007 -- Modified on October 4, 2016

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.

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19 thoughts on “Popsicle Sticks”

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

    By Brandon -- January 7, 2014
  2. i am making a popsicle bridge in class we are tring to make it have 199 lb.

    By Faith Oostra -- September 20, 2011
  3. thank you so much my bridge got 93 pounds before collapsing

    By Josh -- April 10, 2011
  4. 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.

    By Sherri -- April 5, 2011
    • 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.

      By Garrett Boon -- April 6, 2011
      • 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

        By Alec -- August 25, 2011
        • Alec, sorry there was a typo. Try the link again and it should work.

          By Garrett Boon -- August 28, 2011
  5. 15 in

    By Joshua -- April 4, 2011
    • 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.

      By Garrett Boon -- April 6, 2011
  6. I need a good desing to hold 50-100lbs with 40 sticks

    By Josh -- April 3, 2011
    • Josh, how long does your bridge need to be?

      By Garrett Boon -- April 3, 2011
  7. I need help thinking of a good design for a bridge with a maximum of 500 sticks that can carry close to 300lbs.

    By lyla -- January 13, 2011
    • Lyla, for design ideas check out my truss design page.

      By Garrett Boon -- January 13, 2011
    • 300lbs is 300 pounds dont you mean 300 grams

      By william -- May 2, 2015
  8. 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

    By jordan -- September 7, 2010
  9. 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

    By Jane Ellis -- February 24, 2010
  10. 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/

    By Garrett Boon -- July 31, 2008
  11. 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

    By Dr P R Kumar -- July 29, 2008

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