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At-Home Science Experiments: Bridge Building

Mar 30, 2020

By: Rocky the Rock Ripper

Port Lands Flood Protection relies on many different science and engineering disciplines. To design and build a new river, ecological habitats, parks, roads, bridges – and ultimately a new island – the team draws on everything from geotechnical engineering to environmental testing. This winter, we hosted a science and engineering fair to help people learn more about the science, technology and engineering behind this billion-dollar revitalization.

Now you can replicate some of these experiments at home.

Experiment #2: Bridge Building

Learn about the different types of bridges.

Kids building bridges with lego

Lego is a great tool to experiment with different bridge building techniques.

The EllisDon team provided different types of bridges to experiment with. As part of the Port Lands Flood Protection Project, we will be building several bridges – some for cars, some for transit and some for pedestrians and cyclists. Some of the new bridges will go over the existing Keating Channel, while others will help people cross the new river valley.

What are some of the different types of bridges?

Download the images of different bridges here (PDF).

Beam Bridge

Beam bridges are the simplest type of bridge.  It is basically a long beam that is supported at each end. Longer beam bridges sometimes have some supports in the middle, too.  If the supports are far apart, the bridge is not as strong.

Truss Bridge

A truss bridge is supported by triangular sections called trusses. These trusses give additional support to longer bridge  since triangles are not easily distorted by stress.

Arch Bridge

Arches support a bridge by distributing its load horizontally.  They have been used for thousands of years to create long, strong bridges.

Suspension Bridge

Suspension bridges use tension to support the bridge. The load on the bridge is transferred to the suspension cables and distributed across the entire bridge.

Cable-Stayed Bridge

These bridges have one or more towers along its length. Cables run diagonally from the towers to the bridge deck to provide support.

 

Now, let’s try the experiment at home

A child makes a bridge out of Lego

This budding engineer is making an arch bridge out of Lego.

What you’ll need:

  • Lego, k’nex, or other interlocking building blocks
  • A drawing of a river (optional)
  • Heavy things to test the bridge’s strength
  • Reference pictures of the different types of bridges (PDF)

How to do the experiment:

  1. Optional: Draw a river on a piece of paper. Make sure to include a riverbank on either side of the river. The wider you make your river, the more challenging it will be to build a strong bridge.
  2. Look at the different types of bridges in the PDF file
  3. Use the Lego, k’nex or other building blocks to make each type of bridge.
  4. Test the bridge’s strength – see if it will hold up a heavy book, canned food, or other objects. Which bridge is the strongest?

 

Did you try this science experiment? Rocky @TheRockRipper would love to see your results! Share your photos on social media using #RockyScienceChallenge

For more At-Home Science experiments, visit this page.