Student Mode

Invisible Forces    Mystery 2

Flickrgorgebridgemod

What makes bridges so strong?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 8)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 8)

Discuss: How could you keep a bridge like this from sagging? (On the next slide, we'll share one idea we had.)

saggingBoard

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 8)

One idea we had: To keep the bridge from sagging, you could put a pillar underneath to support it.

saggingBoard

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Beginning Exploration (4 of 8)
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Beginning Exploration (5 of 8)

Discuss: Do the bridges you've seen so far give you any ideas about how you could make a strong paper bridge? (Think about how you can support the bridge so it doesn't sag.)

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Beginning Exploration (6 of 8)
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Beginning Activity: Bridge Engineering!
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Activity Prep

Each pair or group of students needs:

  • a Bridge Challenge handout
  • a ruler
  • several sheets of typing paper
  • a pair of scissors
  • two stacks of books
  • pennies (We recommend having at least 400 pennies on hand. Some bridges are VERY strong.)

Each student needs:

The class will also need lots of pennies for testing their bridges. We recommend you raid your penny jar or get several rolls of pennies from the bank.

The teacher needs a printout of Teacher Tips , which provides suggestions for guiding students when they are building bridges.

To prepare for the activity, we also recommend you watch this video of Doug & Pat from the Mystery Science team modeling how to build and improve a bridge. If your students get stuck, you can use this video for inspiration.

Beginning Exploration (7 of 8)

Teacher Video - Guiding students to make bridges

The next slide is a video of Doug & Pat making different bridge designs. This is designed for the teacher to watch in advance. It will help you support students if they get stuck. (We don't recommend playing this video for the students before they've had a chance to experiment on their own.)

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Beginning Exploration (8 of 8)
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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & Exploration you just completed.
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Human Bridges

What would it feel like to be a tower on the Golden Gate Bridge? What forces would you feel as an arch bridge? To better understand the pushes and pulls at work in a bridge, your students can become the parts of different types of bridges.

  • Make a human suspension bridge with 16 students and two sturdy ropes in this activity from American Society for Engineering Education.

  • Create a human arch bridge in an activity from BUILDING BIG™, a five-part PBS television series.

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Paper Bridges

To learn more about paper bridges, check out these sites.
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Golden Gate Bridge

Learn more about this world-famous bridge.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Lesson Image
bridges by Jim Bowen , used under CC BY
Exploration
Kirby Cove by Akos Kokai , used under CC BY
Charles Ellis by Mary Cone/PBS
Celestia software by Celestia , used under CC BY
Golden Gate by James W. Shepp & Daniel B. Shepp , used under Public Domain
GoldenGateBridge at night by Ryan J Wilmot , used under CC BY-SA
steel construction by m.sansom
StafsWorcs Meccano Bridge by Sjwells53 , used under CC BY-SA
bridge number 6 by Mfwills , used under CC BY-SA
Phila Falls Bridge by Davidt8 , used under Public Domain