South Orangetown Central School District

Sixth-grade Technology students have spent the past few weeks collaborating on a design challenge: Construct a balsa wood bridge that can sustain the most weight possible.

The hands-on engineering project deepens students’ understanding of the basic physics of bridges and requires them to use what they have learned about types of bridges and the forces that act upon them.

“This is an extension of the Technology class bridge project at Cottage Lane, where students used software simulations to test their designs,” explained SOMS Technology teacher Kerry Beckmann. “Here, we have a structures testing instrument that enables students to apply pressure to the bridges they’ve built and get accurate measures for both peak load and current load.”

A bridge constructed by Sophie O., Bella V. and Ryan O. withstood 19 pounds of force–a class record. “It took us two weeks to build our bridge from start to finish,” said Sophie. “We started with five pieces of wood and mapped out the design on graph paper.” Ryan added, “We built the sides first, as that required the most amount of wood, and we used triangle bracing to make our design stronger.”

Teacher and students looking at bridge and structure tester