Students identify different bridge designs and construction materials used in modern day engineering. They work in construction teams to create paper bridges and spaghetti bridges based on existing bridge designs. Students progressively realize the importance of the structural elements in each bridge. They also measure vertical displacements under the center of the spaghetti bridge span when a load is applied. Vertical deflection is measured using a LEGO MINDSTORMS(TM) NXT intelligent brick and ultrasonic sensor. As they work, students experience tension and compression forces acting on structural elements of the two bridge prototypes. In conclusion, students discuss the material properties of paper and spaghetti and compare bridge designs with performance outcomes.
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Students learn about water erosion through an experimental process in which small-scale buildings are placed along a simulated riverbank to experience a range of flooding conditions. They learn how soil conditions are important to the stability or failure of civil engineering projects and how a river's turns and bends (curvature, sinuosity) make a difference in the likelihood of erosion. They make model buildings either with a 3D printer or with LEGO® pieces and then see how their designs and riverbank placements are impacted by slow (laminar) and fast (turbulent) water flow over the soil. Students make predictions, observations and conclusions about the stability of their model houses, and develop ideas for how to mitigate damage in civil engineering projects.
Students measure the permeability of different types of soils, compare results and realize the importance of size, voids and density in permeability response.
Students learn about contact stress and its applications in engineering. They are introduced to the concept of heavy loads, such as buildings, elephants, people and traffic, and learn how those heavy loads apply contact stress. Through the analysis of their own footprints, students determine their contact stress.