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Super Bridge

Ideas from Teachers


(K-12)
This activity could be used with NOVA's "Super Bridge" program.After studying bridges, my 5th-graders work with a partner to construct suspension bridges. They use hot glue guns, string for the cables, and up to 500 popsicle sticks. The bridges must be at least 1 meter long. As a culminating activity we have a "bridge crash." We invite parents, other classes, and TV and newspaper reporters. The students test their bridges to see how much they will hold. We used 5-pound bricks last year and 2 bridges held 80 lbs.

Sent in by
Cindy Hamilton
Baldwin Intermediate School


(Gr. 4-6)
My students built bridges using NOVA Online's "Super Bridge" Web site. I created a home page highlighting their work. My class loved making the bridges, playing the game on your site and watching the program. We watched it in segments due to the length and each day they wanted to know if we were going to watch more of it. Our Web page is at http://www.geocities.com/algiersteacher/bridge.html

Editor's note: To read an extended description of this idea, see Featured Teachers.

Sent in by
Margaret Wells
Alice Harte Elementary
New Orleans, LA


Web site. I created a home page highlighting their work. My class loved making the bridges, playing the game on your site and watching the program. We watched it in segments due to the length and each day they wanted to know if we were going to watch more of it. Our Web page is at http://www.gnofn.org/~msw03/BridgeContest.html

Editor's note: To read an extended description of this idea, see Featured Teachers.

Sent in by
Margaret Wells
Alice Harte Elementary
New Orleans, LA


(Gr. 4-6)
My students built bridges using your site. I created a home page highlighting their work. My class loved making the bridges, playing the game on your site and watching the video. We watched it in segments due to the length and each day they wanted to know if we were going to watch more of it. Our Web page is at http://www.geocities.com/algiersteacher/bridge.html

Sent in by
Margaret Wells
Alice Harte Elementary
New Orleans, LA


(Gr. 4-8)
Here is an activity that could be used with NOVA's "Super Bridge"
program. I currently teach a 5-day, 2 1/2-hour session on construction of structures. We build a bridge out of Popsicle sticks (50 of them) and test their strength by placing a 5-gallon bucket attached to it. We keep adding water until it is ready to break or breaks.

I also teach a little on tension and compression by making a small Native American tepee. I then move into using hard stock patterns which we make I-beams. They must put together enough I-beams to form a building. Then we cover three-quarters of it (front and both sides) with white construction paper on which they draw doors, windows, etc. We place this building on a piece of hard board where they can place miniature trees, shrubs, or even just draw them around the building.

I'm looking for some new ideas because I have some students who are asking the class again and I need some new things for them. Got any ideas for me out there? If so, please e-mail me.

Sent in by
Art McCormick
Connoquenessing Elementary School
artmc@juno.com


(Gr. 6-8)
Our school is divided into teams of teachers to create a core of adults that the students are in contact with. This allows us to explore the use of interdisciplinary units across the standard Math, English, Science, and Social Studies curriculum. We intend to us NOVA's "Super Bridge" Web site as a reference and interactive way for students to understand the different types of bridges that the Web site highlights.

We are grouping about 150 students into teams of 4-5 and they are going to create a bridge out of various materials such as toothpicks, string, rubber-bands, and glue. Each group has to study the different types of bridges in order to determine which type will best suite the requirements placed on them by our team. They will also draw a layout of their bridge from different perspectives. They will need to apply for a small business loan in order to finance their endeavor. They will then need to develop a budget and keep track of their finances in a ledger.

When their bridges are finished we will do a stress test and an earthquake-shearing test on them. If their bridges pass at certain tolerances, then they will receive a prize or other form of recognition. The Web site is a great resource to help us in developing their understanding of the different types of bridges. The information that they will acquire through their research will lay a great foundation for their creativity.

Sent in by
Mark Bowser
Roseville Area Middle School


(Gr. 6-9)
After the class has watched NOVA's "Super Bridge" program and tried some experiments, divide them into groups of 2-5. Give each group about 50 toothpicks and some glue. Provide them with a few class periods to build any type of bridge as long as only toothpicks and glue are used. (There should be a limitation for length.)

When the bridges are done, each group can place their bridge with each end on a pile of books and put weights on one at a time until the bridge collapses under the weight.

Then, assign students to write a short essay that explains why some bridges were stronger than others, what their group tried to do, what strategies and techniques were most effective in building a strong bridge, etc. Also ask why triangles are much stronger than squares and rectangles.

Sent in by
Johann Schmidt
The Appletree School
New Milford, CT


(Gr. 6-12)
I directed an educator institute this past summer at the Falls of the Ohio River State Park, in Clarksville, Indiana. One of our sessions focused on the current studies developed by Indiana and Kentucky relating to a new or additional bridge between Louisville and Jeffersonville, New Albany, and Clarksville, Indiana. We experienced the traffic, toured the Clark Maritime Centre, and learned about the importance of land transportation to the industries associated with river transportation, and cruised the river to see the current structures, as well as the areas along the river.

I will be using NOVA's "Super Bridge" program on a field trip for middle school students from northern Indiana as we explore the geology, geography, history, and cultures of this area because the study recommended not one, but two bridges for the area. These will be built as the students become adults, and they are sure to be hot topics.

Sent in by
Patricia Gillogly
Indiana Historical Society


(Gr. 9-12)
After the Advanced Placement Calculus Exams, I have my class build straw bridges. The calculus kids love it, but, most important, they are competing with my freshmen Geometry classes. This is a serious assignment!

Students are challenged to build the best bridge they can from the given materials. Their bridge must span the space between two desks and hold as much weight as possible.

Materials

  • 22 straws
  • As many straight pins as you want
  • 2" X 22" piece of poster board

Procedure

  1. Assign students to groups of two.

  2. Tell students that their bridge must span of 18 to 22 inches. It can have any design they want within the constraints of the materials and rules for building. They may not use glue or any adhesive, but small pliers may help with bending pins.

  3. Tell students that straws may not be "stuffed" with pins. They do not need to use all of their straws and pins.

  4. Students must design their bridges so they have a part on each end to sit on two desks with the middle of the bridge free to hang weights.

  5. During the "Bridge Breaking", any bridges in the "finals" can be modified where there is "wear and tear."

Hints:

  • Equilateral and right triangles are strongest when working with straws.

  • Flat bridges, bridges with straws pinned flat to the poster board, are not allowed.

  • Pins, holding straws together or straws to poster board, break down the strength of the intersection of the two materials.

  • Students who try to make a suspension bridge by linking pins together will need pliers to get them to stay linked. Solder is not allowed.

Sent in by
Jean Thiry
Vernon Hills High School
Vernon Hills, IL


(High School/Early College)
We are using NOVA Online's "Super Bridge" Web site as a resource for a project involving the construction of spaghetti bridges. The information and links provide an excellent reseach ground for the design and planning stage. This leads to a two-week construction phase and a competition within each class to see who can construct the most efficient bridge. This is calculated by finding the mass each bridge will support and dividing it by the actual mass of the bridge. A great opportunity for hands-on problem solving.

Sent in by
Andrew Bendersky
Haltom High School
Haltom City, TX


(College-Graduate)
I teach elementary mathematics education majors and my focus is on how to effectively teach content using technology. One of the projects I do during our Geometry Unit is based on NOVA's "Super Bridge" program. We view it, discuss it, and then the class does group projects where they must build a bridge using regular copy paper and standard-sized paper clips. They then do a presentation to convince me that I should go with their "company" for the "contract".

In their presentation, they must tell me about the cost of their bridge, safety features, how long it will take to build, etc. They must also test their bridge. The bridges must pass 3 tests: the "strength" test (it must support the weight of their "test vehicle," a toy car), the "length" test (it must span the Perdue River, indicated by two pieces of masking tape on the floor), and the "height" test (it must allow for a ruler to be passed underneath; ie, must be at least one foot high at some point over the river).

Sent in by
Dr. Diana S. Perdue
West Texas A&M University
Canyon, TX
dperdue@mail.wtamu.edu


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Super Bridge
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