Build a Bridge

  • by Kate Hudec
  • Posted 11.01.97
  • NOVA

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Build a Bridge - Play the Game

Intro Screen

Ready to give it a go? Think you know which type of bridge belongs where? If so, click on the button below to start. Or feel free to survey the sites again.

Hints and Feedback

For a beam bridge to span 1,200 feet, you'd need three or four supports.

Suspension bridges typically span distances between 2,000 and 6,000 feet.

A cable-stayed bridge needs at least one tower, if not two.

Cable-stayed bridges typically span distances between 500 and 2,800 feet.

Suspension bridges are the best bridges for spanning the longest distances and leaving plenty of room for a shipping channel.

Arch bridges typically span distances between 200 and 800 feet.

Final Screen

Congratulations! You've solved the puzzle. You're ready to roll out the blue prints and strap on a hard hat.

As you were playing this game, you may have thought, "Gee, I wish I could combine some of these bridges—say, build a continuous-beam bridge across the bay, but put a cable-stayed bridge in the middle to create a shipping channel." Well, in the real world, engineers often do exactly that, creating "hybrid" bridges that are tailor-made to a given situation.

A few words of caution. For the sake of clarity, this game has oversimplified what, in the real world of engineering, are very complex decisions and principles. To learn more, consult the sources in the section below or your local library.



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