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Bridge-Busting Exercise in DAAP
Offers Fun Lesson in Design

Date: Feb. 24, 2001
Story and video by: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos by: Lisa Ventre
Archive: General News

A crushing calamity claimed the best that architecture students had to offer this week, while others survived to celebrate their successes.

Click here for video of a calamity.

Click here for video of a successful crossing.

In one of their first attempts to translate theoretical design into reality, 60 sophomores in a Structures II course built eight-foot-long bridges of all-organic materials like wood, rope and string. Then, before a noisy crowd of senior architecture students, faculty and others, the sophomores put their designs to the test.

The first test was the easiest. A single team member walked across the bridge. Those that cleared the first hurdle went on to the next challenge. Each bridge had to hold up under the weight of all group members (the students worked in teams of 2 to 4). If the bridge was still standing after that, it was overloaded with predictable results. The projects came crashing down to the delight of the crowd.

Throughout the event, the seniors (who serve as judges and "spotters) dressed in war paint, paper "grass" skirts, war bonnets and head bands of greenery. When a bridge did have the misfortune to break under the weight of an excess number of sophomores, the senior tribe would then jump up and down on the splintered wood remains to make sure it was, indeed, "dead" before throwing it into a pit of bridge carcasses.

Suspense built up for the sophomores during the event. Explained Joe Park of Chardon, Ohio, "The best part is seeing if it works. We've built it, but we can't test it till the actual event. The whole time were building it, we can't actually test it with all of our weight (because it might break and then they would nave no bridge for the event). You just pray that it works."

It turned out that Park and teammates Barrett McClish and David Osmond didn't have to worry. In the end, their simple beam bridge held five young architects.

After her bridge broke, Melissa Donovan of Lorain, Ohio, lamented, "My baby! I love my bridge" as it was thrown into the pit for broken bridges. She loved the event, she says, because it gives everyone a chance to see the craft and care she and teammates Kevin Keeler and Eric Mendell put into their work.

She and her team also built a simple beam bridge though it took them two designs to get it right. "Our first bridge was too wide," she explained. "It wouldn't have been able to bear the load in the middle. We rebuilt, this time making a taller, narrower beam."

For Donovan, the most challenging part of the project was going three feet off the ground to walk atop her work. "I'm afraid of heights," she admitted.

Led by Tom Bible, associate professor of architecture, the project included lessons in aesthetics and practical engineering, including figuring tension, torque, member support, distance and strength.


 
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