Workshop: Bridge Building 101

Uncover the physics behind forces applied to a bridge, the engineering challenges in construction and how to calculate the strength of a bridge. Design and build a bridge from balsa wood.

Major Concepts to be explored:  

  • What are the engineering strategies behind building bridges? 

  • What is a bridge? 

  • What are the forces applied to a bridge? 

  • How is a bridge constructed? 

  • How is the strength of a bridge measured? 

  • What is the importance of teamwork and communication? 

  • What are the different designs and types of bridges? 

Essential Standards: 


21st Century Skills: 

Participants will be able to:

  • Communicate by sharing thoughts, questions, ideas, and solutions 

  • Collaborate by working together to reach a goal – putting talent, expertise, and smarts to work 

  • Think critically by looking at problems in a new way and linking learning across subjects and disciplines 

  • Create, innovate, and invent by trying new approaches when presented with a challenge 

Goals of the Workshop:  

  • To introduce students to the engineering concepts behind bridge building. 

Workshop Objectives:  

Participants will be able to:  

  • Understand what a bridge is 

  • Understand the forces at work on a bridge 

  • Understand how bridges are constructed 

Methods and Activities:  

  • A Discovery Place Science Reach educator will guide students through the different types of bridges and give tips on how to construct their bridges. 
  • Students will build cantilevers using straws. 
  • Students will select a bridge type and draft a design on graph paper. 
  • Students will build a bridge out of balsa wood and test the strength of their bridge. 

Key Vocabulary:  

Force, Compression, Tension, Torsion, Cantilever, Shear, Suspension, Girder, Truss, Mass 

Set-up needs:  

  • Teaching/presentation space must be accessible via wheeled cart. 

  • Large room with large desks or enough small tables for students to work in groups of 2 

  • Approximate set-up and clean-up time – 30 minutes before and after program.  

  • If possible a secure storage location for student’s bridges to be placed while the glue dries.

Call to Book

704.372.6261 x300
  • Grades 3 - 8
  • Duration: 6 one-hour sessions
  • call for pricing
  • maximum 25 students

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