Bridge engineering for the elementary grades


A one hour presentation was developed to get elementary school students interested in engineering. The presentation begins with the students building a six feet long, structurally sound bridge which they can crawl across. A pictorial presentation helps them learn to identify some of the different types of bridges: truss, stone arch, steel arch, concrete girder, cable-stayed, and suspension. They are introduced to the fundamental engineering concepts of tension and compression. These concepts are reinforced by demonstrating that if a tension member is replaced with a chain then the bridge is still strong, but if a compression member is replaced with a chain the bridge will collapse. The presentation was integrated into the engineering curriculum by having senior design groups develop new bridge concepts and introduce new ideas into the presentation. This project provides a good senior design problem and helps keep the program fresh and interesting for the grade school children.

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Journal of Engineering Education