MAYS LANDING — Students in a computer-aided drafting and design class tested triangle truss bridges that they designed and constructed using Popsicle sticks.
One of the goals of the project was to discover everything that goes into building a bridge on a small scale using triangle shaped supports and trusses to make the bridge sturdy enough to hold the weight of cars and trucks on a roadway, said Fran Campbell, CADD instructor.
Students started the project by researching the use of triangle-shaped supports for bridge construction. Once the research was completed, each student was given 100 Popsicle sticks to use to construct their bridge. In addition, students practiced their drawing skills using AutoCAD software to draw their bridge designs.
The Popsicle sticks were held together with melted glue, to represent the rivets, trusses and roadways that make up today’s modern bridges. The models were placed between two tables and chain was attached at the center of the bridge and attached to a bucket.
Next, weights were placed into the bucket in 5-pound increments. When the bucket reached a weight of at least 25 pounds, the students begin pouring sand into the bucket to continue to increase the weight being exerted on their bridge. Students tested their bridges for both structural integrity and total amount of weight it could support.
Students who used the triangle design construction for all sides and decking supports of their bridge were able to withstand greater amounts of weight, Campbell said. The first-place bridge, which was designed and constructed by Riley MacFarlane, was able to support a total weight of 115 pounds.
“I was surprised that my bridge was able to hold so much weight,” McFarlane said.
The second-place bridge, designed and constructed by Kevin Waiters, was able to hold 99 pounds, and the third-place bridge, designed and constructed by James Williams, supported 62 pounds before it cracked in half.
This was a great hands-on project for the students, Campbell said. They got to see firsthand how a triangle-shape truss was able to distribute forces evenly to enable their bridges to hold more weight than they thought possible by using just popsicle sticks and hot glue.