Building Bridges
An Internet WebQuest on The Study of Bridges

Student Page


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Main Page | Teaching Page | Roles & Resources |

Introduction


Bridges are all around us, in our world and in our language. Quotes are familiar to us such as: "Bridges to tomorrow" or "Bridges to discovery" and "Don't burn any bridges behind you." This page will prepare you to understand bridge
building. You will explore bridges throughout the world, types of bridges, the mathematics of bridge building, and how to construct a bridge yourself.

This WebQuest, geared for middle school students (sixth grade specifically), attempts to explore information about bridges. Using cooperative groups to present and defend their own creative bridge construction, the whole class will be able to understand the complexity of bridges, an everyday experience taken for granted by most. By dividing into roles and working cooperatively, the class will be able to work together to tackle the whole story on bridge building. The Internet will provide all the resources that the students will need to explore this topic.

The Quest

Several concepts will be presented during this WebQuest:

When finished learning about these concepts, you will use your knowledge and build your own bridge.

 



The Process and Resources

Part of your job in this WebQuest is to take on a role in the bridge construction team. You will be working together with a group of students in class. Each group will complete the tasks and learn about bridges. As a member of the group you will explore Webpages that explain the various issues about bridge construction. The sites will provide information that will help you support your role. Because these are real Webpages you'll be searching, not sites made just for schools, the reading level might challenge you. Use the dictionary to help you with words you might not know.

You'll begin with everyone in your group getting some background information bridges. You will become knowledgeable on the aspects that pertain to your role in your team by reading and exploring the links to Webpages. Then you can help build your bridge and present it to the class.



Phase 1 - Background: Something for Everyone

Take a look at these webpages on bridges to gain background knowledge to help you with your WebQuest. Use other resources that you have access to so that you can explore and build on your own. Answer the following questions as a group. Then proceed to choosing a role.

 

Resource Links


Phase 2 - Looking Deeper

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MODEL I

1. The WebQuest groups will consist of 2-3 members and take on one of the following roles: Bridge Engineer, Contractor, and Materials Handler.

2. Read through the files linked to your role. If you look at the files on the computer, copy sections you feel are important by dragging the mouse across the passage and copying / pasting it into a word processor or other writing software or take a good set of notes.

3. Note: Remember to write down or copy/paste the URL address of the file you take the passage from so you can quickly go back to it if you need to to prove your point or include it in a bibliography.

4. Be prepared to remember what you've learned and try to make a generalization of all of the information pertinent to your role. Use your view(s) to construct your bridge.

**Please realize that you should read through all of the information in the sites, rather than simply looking for the answers to the questions pertaining to the sites. Use this information to strengthen your group's knowledge of bridge construction which should result in a better built product.


5. To design and build a bridge which can be tested for structural strength and then analyzed for the forces involved.

Materials: cardboard, ruler, gumdrops, model car and boat, financial papers

Procedure:

1. Each 2-member team will select a name for the construction company they are representing.
2. Each team will get a bank loan of $2,000 to build a bridge. The team will have to plan out how much materials the company will need and a purchase order will be
filled out.
3. A discussion of various bridge types will be held: Beam Bridges, Arch Bridges, Suspension Bridges, and Truss Bridges including the Pratt, Warren and Lattice styles.
4. The team will measure the cardboard and plan the type of construction would be best for the company.
5. The cardboard measures 14 inches in length. The bridge must span (go across) at least 8 inches.
6. The height of the bridge must be at least 2 inches high. The roadway must be 1 3/4 inches wide. The roadway will be paved later.
7. String may be purchased and used in the structure.
8. Students are supplied with a price list for supplies. The group may not buy more materials than it has money for. A check must be written for each purchase order. Each order must be marked down i the student (company journal).
9. Each student will research bridge designs from literature or actual structures. Resources from the Internet are provided, but you may pull information from magazines, newspaper, or books.

*Note bracing points and reinforcements and how each design takes into account gravitational and load forces and notice the materials used.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MODEL II

1. The WebQuest groups will consist of 2-3 members and take on one of the following roles: Bridge Engineer, Contractor, and Materials Handler.

2. Read through the files linked to your role. If you look at the files on the computer, copy sections you feel are important by dragging the mouse across the passage and copying / pasting it into a word processor or other writing software or take a good set of notes.

3. Note: Remember to write down or copy/paste the URL address of the file you take the passage from so you can quickly go back to it if you need to to prove your point or include it in a bibliography.

4. Be prepared to remember what you've learned and try to make a generalization of all of the information pertinent to your role. Use your view(s) to construct your bridge.

**Please realize that you should read through all of the information in the sites, rather than simply looking for the answers to the questions pertaining to the sites. Use this information to strengthen your group's knowledge of bridge construction which should result in a better built product.

5. Design and build a bridge which can be tested for structural strength and then analyzed for the forces involved.

6. Each student will then design and build a bridge using 100 or less wooden toothpicks or 100 pieces or less of dry pasta and Elmer's glue.

7. The total weight of the finished bridge must not exceed 40 cm.
Any design can be used as long as the roadbet is flat and unobstructed to allow a matchbox car to travel its length. The bridge must be free standing and allow for a 2 cm x 30 cm board to pass under the bridge while it rests on a flat surface. Only the materials listed may be used to build the bridge. Excessive amounts of glue may not be used as part of the structure (the bridge may not be completely covered in glue).

8. To test each bridge's strength, you will place the bridge onto and between two flat-topped tables spaced 25 cm apart. Pennies will be added until the bridge gives way. The number of pennies that it can hold will determine the strength.

9. Each bridge will be ranked using a ratio of load weight to bridge weight.

MATERIALS: toothpicks or dry pasta and glue

INSTRUCTIONS FOR MODEL III

Day 1
Here is the vocabulary for both the science and the math.

Using this vocabulary, construct two sentences for each of the following words and copy the definitions for each word into your notebook.

SCIENCE

1.truss
2.pier
3.trestle
4.cable
5.caisson


MATH

1.acute angle
2.angle
3.congruent
4.diagonal
5.edge
6.obtuse angle
7.parallel lines
8.parallelogram
9.perpendicular line
10.polygon
11.quadrilateral
12.right angle
13.straight angle
14.trapezoid

You will have an opportunity to practice your vocabulary skills in the next few days.

Days 2-3

Visit the following sites for bridge information. Pay careful attention to the detail of the bridges. Make beginning sketches of your bridge. You will use these pictures as a basis for the type of bridge that you will build. You may copy the bridges exactly as you see them, or modify them to meet your own needs. The person drawing your blueprint is responsible to have those plans ready for the teacher to check.

Day 4

Contest Rules

1. Divide yourselves into groups of 2-3. Having researched bridge design, you must now design and build a bridge to meet the following criteria:
It must span a 75 cm gap
It must be 15 cm wide
It must be able to support 25 g at the center and 50 g at each end
It must weigh no more than 300 g
A Matchbox car must not fall through the roadway surface of the bridge

2. You must take the blueprint that was drawn and make your model from it. Working as a group, your contractor will attach the spaghetti together. Your materials handler can work on the materials list. Your engineer will do the actual drawing of the overall bridge. Together select a project manager. (If you can't agree, put the names on paper and draw out a name.) The "PM" has to ensure that all members of the group are on task and should also maintain focus on the overall project criteria. That person will also be the contact with the teacher. All questions should go through the PM and then to the teacher.


Days 5-7

After you design and sketch the bridge that you want to build, you will seek approval of your design from your math teacher, you will continue to research information on the type of bridge that you have chosen to build. Then begin a paper on this type of bridge. The paper must be at least two pages and must also include the history of the bridge and the features that make the bridge strong. The paper will be due on the final day of bridge construction.

Extra Credit! Write a two page paper on local bridges. Include topographical information in your paper.

Reminder: Papers are due on the day of bridge final tests.

Days 8-9

You must dilate, to scale, your completed design onto graph paper. Then, you need to use the information that your completed dilation provides and develop a projected "cost and materials needed" estimation. Follow this design "to the letter" and build your bridge from the following materials:

Spaghetti - $100.00 per strand
Elmer's Glue - $25,000 per bottle
Scotch Tape - $1000.00 per inch

Days 10-12

Build your bridge. Remember, you must:

1.Use your dilation.
2.Use only the materials provided (spaghetti, Elmer's glue, and Scotch tape).
3.Use only those materials accounted for in your budget.

Days 13-14

CAREFULLY examine your bridge for "flaws." Fix as many of the imperfections as you can. REMEMBER, your bridge to be structurally sound has to sustain the weight of the mass that we will place on it. If you want to "pre-test" your bridge, a good guideline for estimation is that a nickel will weigh approximately 5.0g. Then you must determine your actual construction costs.

Reminder: Papers are due on the day of bridge final tests.

Day 15

Students will test their bridges. They must support 25g at the center and 50g at each end.

Remember: Papers are due today!

Other Sites and Information

Some suggested activities that relate to this project:
1. Formulate a contest using this model and make it available to another school (in your community, state, or country)
You could contact MIDLINK magazine, a magazine that posts the work of middle school students with information and photos about your project.

2. You can email Ms. McCullen, the contact person for MIDLINK magazine.

3. You could contact the science department chair, Linda Whiteman, at East Avenue Middle to see if any classroom is intested in a contest in bridge building with your school. Since East Avenue Middle School has experience building bridges, you could also contact Linda Whiteman for information on Bridge Building.

4. You could contact the technology coordinator at British Columbia's Ministry of Education for more information regarding bridge building.

 

Phase 3 - Presenting the Bridge

Each WebQuest team has a different role in the bridge building concept, and has will gain expertise on their perspective. That expertise will be applied to create a bridge that will support the group's conclusions. Using information, pictures, facts, opinions, etc. from webpages that were explored, you will attempt to build the best bridge that will fit the requirements. After each group has given their presentation and demonstrated their bridge, the class will discuss each bridge construction, allowing everyone to evaluate what was realized and learned. Remember to keep an open mind as you examine other people's bridges and listen to their ideas.


Conclusion

Now that you've heard all about bridge construction. However, so many things are involved and affected when building a bridge that you must look at the entire scope of problems. To understand this complex topic you must consider the entire process of bridge construction, rather than just the part that you find interesting. By reviewing all of topics and roles, you will be more knowledgeable on the topic as a whole. Congratulations! You are now very a very knowedgeable individual about bridge construction. You should be proud of yourself! Now when you travel over that next bridge, will you have some appreciation and understanding of the complex issues involved? Remember, learning goes beyond the classroom. Check out the bridges in your area.

Evaluation

Besides answering the following questions, please look at the rubric to evaluatate your written work and your constructed bridge.

Questions for the individual groups:

1.How did you come up with the initial design for your bridge?
2.Did your design change as you built your bridge?
3.Which geometric shapes did you use in your bridge? Why?
4.How does the strength of the bridge compare to the weight of the bridge?
5.Would you make any changes in the design of your bridge?

For the large group:

Questions for the whole group:

1.Which bridge was the longest? Tallest? Strongest? Heaviest? Why?
2.What materials do you envision being used in future bridges?
3.How can computers help design bridges?

 



This document was created by Dulcie Davis and the HMS science department. They completed the original version of this document as a project for their science classes.

All inquiries and comments regarding this document should be mailed to Mrs. Davis at the following address:
Ms. Dulcie Davis, sixth grade science teacher