Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Civil Engineering-More than just bridges.

What links Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Year 6 Newport Juniors and the Aldershot based company Card Geotechnics?
Not sure then read on.....

Well, all the above were involved in the inter schools bridge building challenge held at St Joseph’s primary school on Wednesday 14th November. The event began with a very visual presentation by Hailey Tamblin and Keisha Smith, from local company Card Geotechnics, on the role of civil engineers.

Civil engineers are vital in the construction projects that affect all aspects of modern life including transport such as the development of new road rail links together with the designing of bridges to overcome physical barriers water/valleys. The new Wembley stadium and all the infra structure 2012 London Olympics made the teams aware about how this branch of engineering can influence leisure time. The impact of global warming also means the building of new hydro electric dams, wind farms and nuclear power plants will also provide new engineering challenges.

However, the challenge for the Year 6 pupils was to design, make and build a bridge to cross a 30 cm ravine made from just paper, glue and nuts and bolts within the time constraint of just 1 hour. The bridges would then be “road tested” to see if they would withstand the weight of a rather large toy dumper truck crossing the ravine. (The link with Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s famous bridges Tamar Bridge that links Devon and Cornwall and the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol is now perhaps a little clearer).

The hall was soon filled with the noise of the teams discussing their possible designs. James and Daniel of the Newport team quickly came up with a bridge constructed using triangle -shaped trusses. Triangles were chosen because this shape is very strong and can withstand a lot external pressure. Alice, Warren and Nara then set about transforming the flat paper into stronger rolls and using the nuts and bolts quickly assembled the basic side frames. Lily and Daniel carefully measured the dimensions of the truck so that the bridge would be wide enough to allow it to move across easily.

Time sped on and the construction of the bridge deck went through several modifications before the Newport team settled on a cradle design attached to side struts of the bridge frame. Everybody pulled together and it was all “hands on deck” to ensure all the tiny nuts and bolts were aligned correctly as the Newport team were keen to have a functional but attractive, symmetrical design.

All too soon the hour past and the school teams, in turn, nervously approached the judging area to see if their bridge was up to the job. The civil engineers from Geotechnics probed the team members as to their construction techniques and possible design modifications to improve their bridge. Newport’s bridge was praised for its innovative design and despite a slight swaying motion the truck passed safely over the ravine.

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