Students explore the interface between architecture and engineering. In the associated hands-on activity, students act as both architects and engineers by designing and building a small parking garage.
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Student teams design their own booms (bridges) and engage in a friendly competition with other teams to test their designs. Each team strives to design a boom that is light, can hold a certain amount of weight, and is affordable to build. Teams are also assessed on how close their design estimations are to the final weight and cost of their boom "construction." This activity teaches students how to simplify the math behind the risk and estimation process that takes place at every engineering firm prior to the bidding phase when an engineering firm calculates how much money it will take to build the project and then "bids" against other competitors.
This activity s a student project to construct and test the load bearing capacity of a scale model bridge from toothpicks.
- Material Type:
- Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
- Provider Set:
- Pedagogy in Action
- Garret Bitker
- Date Added:
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.
Students learn about the types of possible loads, how to calculate ultimate load combinations, and investigate the different sizes for the beams (girders) and columns (piers) of simple bridge design. Students learn the steps that engineers use to design bridges: understanding the problem, determining the potential bridge loads, calculating the highest possible load, and calculating the amount of material needed to resist the loads.
Students are introduced to the five fundamental loads: compression, tension, shear, bending and torsion. They learn about the different kinds of stress each force exerts on objects.
Working individually or in groups, students explore the concept of stress (compression) through physical experience and math. They discover why it hurts more to poke themselves with mechanical pencil lead than with an eraser. Then they prove why this is so by using the basic equation for stress and applying the concepts to real engineering problems.
Through a series of three lessons, each with its own hands-on activity, students are introduced to 1) forces, loads and stress, 2) tensile loads and failure, and 3) torsion on structures—fundamental physics concepts that are critical to understanding the built world. The associated activities engage students through experimenting with hot glue gun sticks to experience tension, compression and torsion; the design of plastic chair webbing strips; and problem-solving to reinforce foam insulation "antenna towers" to withstand specified bending and twisting.
Use this activity to explore forces acting on objects, practice graphing experimental data, and introduce the algebra concepts of slope and intercept of a line. A wooden 2 x 4 beam is set on top of two scales. Students learn how to conduct an experiment by applying loads at different locations along the beam, recording the exact position of the applied load and the reaction forces measured by the scales at each end of the beam. In addition, students analyze the experiment data with the use of a chart and a table, and model/graph linear equations to describe relationships between independent and dependent variables.
Students conduct several simple lab activities to learn about the five fundamental load types that can act on structures: tension, compression, shear, bending and torsion. In this activity, students play the role of molecules in a beam that is subject to various loading schemes.
Students explore the basics of DC circuits, analyzing the light from light bulbs when connected in series and parallel circuits. Ohm's law and the equation for power dissipated by a circuit are the two primary equations used to explore circuits connected in series and parallel. Students measure and see the effect of power dissipation from the light bulbs. Kirchhoff's voltage law is used to show how two resistor elements add in series, while Kirchhoff's current law is used to explain how two resistor elements add when in parallel. Students also learn how electrical engineers apply this knowledge to solve problems. Power dissipation is particularly important with the introduction of LED bulbs and claims of energy efficiency, and understanding how power dissipation is calculated helps when evaluating these types of claims. This activity is designed to introduce students to the concepts needed to understand how circuits can be reduced algebraically.
Students take a hands-on look at the design of bridge piers (columns). First they brainstorm types of loads that might affect a Colorado bridge. Then they determine the maximum possible load for that scenario, and calculate the cross-sectional area of a column designed to support that load. Choosing from clay, foam or marshmallows, they create model columns and test their calculations.
Students learn first-hand the relationship between force, area and pressure. They use a force sensor built from a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT kit to measure the force required to break through a paper napkin. An interchangeable top at the end of the force sensor enables testing of different-sized areas upon which to apply pressure. Measuring the force, and knowing the area, students compute the pressure. This leads to a concluding discussion on how these concepts are found and used in engineering and nature.
Students learn that charge movement through a circuit depends on the resistance and arrangement of the circuit components. In a hands-on activity, students build and investigate the characteristics of series circuits. In another activity, students design and build a flashlight.
The difference between an architect and an engineer is sometimes confusing because their roles in building design can be similar. Students experience a bit of both professions by following a set of requirements and meeting given constraints as they create a model parking garage. They experience the engineering design process first-hand as they design, build and test their models. They draw a blueprint for their design, select the construction materials and budget their expenditures. They also test their structures for strength and find their maximum loads.
Students take a close look at truss structures, the geometric shapes that compose them, and the many variations seen in bridge designs in use every day. Through a guided worksheet, students draw assorted 2D and 3D polygon shapes and think through their forms and interior angles (mental “testing”) before and after load conditions are applied. They see how engineers add structural members to polygon shapes to support them under compression and tension, and how triangles provide the strongest elemental shape. A PowerPoint® presentation is provided. This lesson prepares students for two associated activities that continue the series on polygons and trusses.
Students learn about the role engineers play in designing and building truss structures. Simulating a real-world civil engineering challenge, student teams are tasked to create strong and unique truss structures for a local bridge. They design to address project constraints, including the requirement to incorporate three different polygon shapes, and follow the steps of the engineering design process. They use hot glue and Popsicle sticks to create their small-size bridge prototypes. After compressive load tests, they evaluate their results and redesign for improvement. They collect, graph and analyze before/after measurements of interior angles to investigate shape deformation. A PowerPoint® presentation, design worksheet and data collection sheet are provided. This activity is the final step in a series on polygons and trusses.
Students learn about the mechanical advantage offered by pulleys in an interactive and game-like manner. By virtue of the activity's mechatronic presentation, they learn to study a mechanical system not as a static image, but rather as a dynamic system that is under their control. Using a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics platform and common hardware items, students build a mechanized elevator system. The ability to control different parameters (such as motor power, testing load and pulley arrangement) enables the teacher, as well as the students, to emphasize and reinforce particular aspects/effects of mechanical advantage.
Students learn about the major factors that comprise the design and construction cost of a modern bridge. Before a bridge design is completed, engineers provide overall cost estimates for construction of the bridge. Students learn about the components that go into estimating the total cost, including expenses for site investigation, design, materials, equipment, labor and construction oversight, as well as the trade-off between a design and its cost.