Physics 12 Bridge Building

The annual Physics 12 Bridge Building competition culminated with the load capacities / bridge breakdown on Friday. Catch the exciting action in the 7 minute youtube video showing each student in Mr. Alex Perren’s class as they add the weight and find the load capacity of each bridge.

Mr. Perren enjoys the project because it connects the sometimes dry and math heavy topics in Physics 12 with a real world design challenge. It also allows the students to work together in coming up with a design that meets the strict requirements of the project (must span 50cm, only allowed 100 sticks, etc.) but is still very open to creativity and choice as to how they go about building their bridge. The students walk away from this project with a much better understanding of load transfer and the differences between compression and tension.

I went in after the fact to ask students some questions regarding what they learned in this project:

Tyler Lew stated, “I learned what we are basically learning in class except I was able to put it on more of a hands-on experience which I enjoyed a lot more”. Tyler’s partner in the project Ian Hartleb added, “I’m more of a visual learner and with this project you’ll see how it actually works in real life.”

Partners Candice Soukeroff and Brenden Pereverzoff built their bridge with the idea of roof trusses and the importance of triangles in mind, “triangles help to transfer the forces of the load” Brenden said.

Tyler Vielleux and Jakob Fipke build the bridge that won the competition, which is calculated by the mass of the bridge / divided by the amount of weight the bridge could stand before collapsing. “Building the bridge reinforced our understanding, and working together we were able to combine our ideas to build the best bridge possible.”

Mr. Perren’s final comment really summarizes a fantastic learning experience for these students: “I think most students will now look at bridges with a whole new perspective and can visualize where the forces are going in structures. This is a perspective achieved once you go through the process of designing and building a bridge.”

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