What’s the Challenge?
To design and build a strong and stable ‘bridge’ structure from the list of components below during a 90 minute session. There will be 15 minutes at the beginning to learn some key construction techniques and 15 minutes at the end for some testing time because we’re going to test your bridge to destruction…or success depending how things pan out! Don’t tell the children but if they do it right, there’s every chance they can actually stand on their own creation!
For context I once built a bridge with eight Year 1 & 2 children that 16 adults were able to walk over one by one!
Your ‘Bridge’ can look like anything you want, there is no set plan to follow. The bridge above is the one that kicked off my Inventor Club in the first place. This project is more about discovery than following set instructions so get as creative as you like. A lot of engineering is just about common sense and logical thinking. The session will begin by looking at various structures that could inspire your young inventors but feel free to get them exploring ideas before hand.
Ranging for ability, restrictions and extensions
Years 1 to 4 will build structures in pairs using solid engineering principles, aiming to test as many as we can at the end of the session. Testing involves loading the structures up with kilogram weights. They may survive, they may not. I promise I’ll be kind but some will fail, I will however always point out why so they can learn from that visceral experience for next time.
Years 5 to 9 will build more of a traditional bridge structure. Their bridge will need to be big enough for one of my model cars can sit on and one of my boats to pass underneath. The won’t simply be given materials. Much like the real world they will be given a budget to work to and the aim is to build The Cheapest Strongest Bridge
Year 10 upwards will work in small group as above with limited funds, but their bridges will be expected to open in some fashion whilst remaining strong and stable! they will equally be tested to destruction or survival. team work and communication will be essential. Hinging methods will be discussed but not directed.
What tools & materials will we USE?
The answer is some or all of the below. For years 1 to 4 it will be mostly tape, rubber bands, lollipop sticks and card with some adult assistance to glue gun bits together using my LOWMELT TEC glue guns (not shown below). For years 5 upwards they will have access to a wider range of materials shown below that they will purchase using their budget.
I will take your lead on tools for years 3 & 4, from my experience every school is different. Years 5 & 6 ought to be able to use the glue guns and craft knives under supervision but again, I will leave it to your schools policies to decide.
What age range is suitable?
I’ve now completed this challenge in it’s various guises with over 500 children aged 7 upwards. As above, the challenge can be extended or restricted based on age group and ability.
How long is the session
Basic sessions are a minimum of 90 minutes long meaning 3 seperate sessions are possible within one day. They can easily be extended to give more time for building. For older children we can add additional complexity diving further into construction techniques, methods of activation, pulleys and mechanisms, sliders etc. I can tailor extended sessions to your requirements.
- This project evaluates their creations against a clear set of design Criteria.
- Use of model making skills
- Communicating ideas using sketching skills and words
- Depending on school year a reasonably wide range of tools will be available to use
- Depending on school year there will be a wide range of materials to choose from
- We will explore existing bridges and construction techniques to be inspired by
- We will test our constructions against the original design criteria
- You could extend the sessions by exploring famous bridges as well as famous bridge disasters that have occurred and why
- We are building strong, stiff, stable structures
- Depending on age group we may explore mechanical systems to allow bridges to open
What is the format of the session?
I will give everyone some basic skills and knowledge to get you going via some sheets during the first 15 mins of the session. The students will then have a hour to build their creation and for those that have finished, we’ll spend the last 15 minutes testing their builds. We’ll start off testing with small amounts and work up until either your bridge is destroyed or survives! In the real world testing our ideas is incredibly important. It doesn’t matter if your structure fails, it’s more important that we understand why because next time you’ll do an even better job.
Here are the sheets we’ll use, feel free to download them or have them to hand on a different device during the session.
Call 07515945120, message me on facebook HERE or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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