Structures

Bridges

How do you make a bridge using a single piece of paper?
In the Paper Bridge activity you must construct a bridge to connect two wooden supports that are 10 inches apart. Then the span increases to 14 inches. Try folding, rolling, or cutting the paper to change the shape of the bridge. Experiment by adding weight to the bridge.

Paper Bridge

Can you create an arch bridge that will stand without supports?
The Romans used this type of bridge over 2000 years ago! Discover how the weight of the bridge can be transferred to the side supports (abutments) and learn the definition of a keystone.

Arch Bridge

Can you make a bridge by stacking blocks vertically using a limited number of blocks?
Stack the symmetrical blocks vertically so that they extend horizontally from the base block without tipping over. This will allow you to bridge the distance between the base blocks. As you stack the blocks to make the bridge you will learn how the center of gravity determines the amount of overhang that you can have. This type of design is called a Cantilever Bridge. It may be easier to solve an engineering problem by using more materials but the cost of those materials might be more than the project's budget allows and engineers must search for solutions that meet all the design constraints and cost the least to build.

Cantilever Bridge

Can you create a seven-foot tall freestanding arch?
Catenary Arch You may need some help for this activity. Stack the large numbered foam blocks to make each leg of this seven-foot tall arch. When the keystone (center block) is added, the arch will stand on its own. The arch you created is a Catenary Arch. (A catenary is a type of curve.) Did you notice how difficult it was to balance the blocks as you were building the arch? Gravity was pulling the leaning leg toward the earth. Once the legs were joined, the arch became stable because the shape of the arch is such that the weight of each block is transferred to the block below it. As the blocks in the completed arch press against each other in a balanced way, they resist gravity and the arch won't fall.