After looking at various bridge constructions the children were split into four groups and set a challenge of constructing a bridge from the various materials they were provided with – straws, sellotape, papers and magazines, string, insulating tape, card etc.
After a brief discussion the teams got going and worked with great enthusiasm and ingenuity to construct their bridge that they hoped would hold the greatest weight once finished. They used a variety of techniques, with some groups working slightly more cooperatively and in tandem. The groups were ably assisted by a number of senior school students who joined in the challenge and added an extra pairs of hands and their own levels of enthusiasm.
The race to completion against the clock grew quite tense towards the end and the last pieces of tape were hurriedly being attached as the final whistle went. The groups then added 100g weights at timed intervals to see which would hold the greatest weight before collapsing. The teams strategically loaded the bridges to balance out the weights and hopefully avoid a twisting motion or straight forward collapse in the middle. As the bridges began to sag under the weight and the tape started to stretch and peel away from the desk the tension grew. We were rapidly running out of weights and Mr Lightfoot had to rush around finding additional weights to load the bridges with as they proved far more sturdy than had been predicted. The first bridge collapsed with a veritable clatter as weights and laughter all round but still the challenge went on. Slowly but surely other bridges started to give way under the strain until only one remained.
How much weight could this bridge sustain?! The smaller weights were not challenging the bridge quickly enough so a 5kg weight was called for. Still not enough…
“Bring the 10kg weight”, was the call.
Still it survived. So the 5kg weight was added and eventually the creaking and sagging started. Slowly but surely the bridge started to give in to its load.
All were highly impressed by the amount of weight the bridge constructions managed to hold and we may have uncovered some construction engineers of the future.
The winners certainly enjoyed receiving their chocolate rewards and we thank the Denstone Science department for providing this practical science activity and illustrating to the children how their scientific knowledge can be put to use.