Build a Bridge

  • by Kate Hudec
  • Posted 11.01.97
  • NOVA

Four open spans need bridges. You've just been put in charge of deciding which type of bridge is best for each of those four spans. Are you up to the task? Let's find out.

First, you'll want to take a good look at each site. Then you'll want to research each of the four kinds of bridges that you can choose from. Only then will you be ready to try your hand at building a bridge—actually four of them! Follow the steps below:

Survey the four sites

Three spans are over water, one over land. Each has a different length to be crossed. And, most importantly, each requires a different kind of bridge. Check out the sites on page 2.

bay with missing bridge

Do your homework

Brush up on the four kinds of bridges you can choose from—arch, beam, suspension, and cable-stayed. To get a feel for their differences yourself, you can even construct simple models at home or school. Try it on page 3.

four bridge types

Play the game

Once you've surveyed the sites and reviewed the types of bridges, put on your civil engineer's hat and build some bridges on page 4. Good luck!

river with bridge missing



American Society of Civil Engineers A site for engineering professionals with information on publications, job openings, educational programs, conferences, and other industry resources.

Association for Bridge Construction and Design Learn about the activities of this organization devoted to improving the science of bridge design, construction, and maintenance.

Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute This organization is dedicated to fostering greater understanding and use of precast/prestressed concrete.

The Clark Bridge, Alton Illinois A photo history of the bridge featured in the NOVA program Super Bridge.

Figg Engineering Group, Hanson Professional Services These two companies are the engineers of record for the Clark Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge Read about the history of the Golden Gate Bridge and take a virtual stroll from the Marin side of the bridge across to San Francisco.


Billington, David P. 1985. The Tower and the Bridge: The New Art of Structural Engineering. Princeton University Press.

Leonhardt, Fritz. 1990. Bridges. MIT Press.


Kate Hudec
Special Thanks:
Paul Barbone
Craig Finley
Marty McIntyre
Rita Seraderian

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