Many science classrooms assign students the task of making a bridge out of wooden sticks. Toothpicks and Popsicle sticks are the most common types of sticks required for these projects. These assignments encourage students to apply their knowledge of vectors and equilibrium forces to build a bridge that will hold as much weight as possible. Teachers usually enforce rules that restrict students from overlapping sticks or using too much glue. Usually, only one type of glue is allowed, in order to make the project fair to all participants. If you are building a bridge out of wooden sticks for fun, then these rules don't apply.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Wooden sticks
- Box cutter
- School glue
Review the guidelines of your project carefully to make sure you follow all rules and assemble the correct materials. If you are building the bridge as a hobby, you are free to build it in any way you like.
Test your wooden sticks to make sure they are all durable and free of splinters. One weak stick could compromise the integrity of your entire bridge.
Decide which of the four types of bridges you want to make: beam bridge, truss bridge, arch bridge or suspension bridge. After deciding, it is a good idea to research how your chosen bridge type works, assuming you haven't already learnt these principles in your class.
Develop a plan of action or draw a model before beginning assembly. Many model bridge builders will draw the plan on paper to get precise measurements and angles, and then outline the design with their wooden sticks.
Glue one piece together at a time, using a box cutter to trim the sticks. Make sure you follow the rules regarding the amount of glue you can use and the amount of overlap allowed. It is a good idea to begin with your bridge platform first so you have something onto which to build the rest of the bridge.
Assemble the bridge towers that will support the bridge across its length. Each type of bridge will generally have at least one support tower, dependng on the length of the span.
Glue the support towers to the platform of the bridge, bearing in mind that an equal distribution of the towers will provide an equal distribution of weight across the bridge.
Assemble and then add the finishing touches of your bridge, whether they be the trusses, arches or suspension cables. Wooden sticks can be used to make the trusses and arches, but you will a string such as yarn or fishing line to create the cables of a suspension bridge.
Place your bridge over a gap, such as the distance between two desks, then attach weights to measure the weight capacity of your bridge. If you made this bridge as a model hobby, skip the weights and put the bridge on display.
Tips and warnings
- Refer to famous bridges or the bridges in your community to get an idea of how they work.
- Explore a few different options before settling on the type of bridge you will build.
- If this bridge is being built for a competition, remember that breaking rules will disqualify you. Many contests forbid students from reinforcing the sticks with a layer of glue, overlapping sticks and placing sticks side by side.
- Careful attention must be paid when measuring to ensure that the weight is distributed evenly across the bridge. When one spot is weaker or stronger than the other, the entire bridge is compromised.
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