Outing #24: Building Bridges

Q’eswachaka Rope Bridge, Peru

Meghalaya, India

EXPLORE

This week we’re exploring engineering in all its many forms. Part of what makes us human is our ability to think creatively to solve problems. That’s engineering.

To join us, start with this short video introducing engineering from Crash Course Kids.

For today's adventures, we focused on how people around the world have engineered bridges from all sorts of materials. Watch this short National Geographic slideshow and website highlighting spectacular bridges made from everything from stone and steel to grass and living roots.

Then, learn more about the traditional engineering techniques behind the Q’eswachaka grass rope bridge in Peru and Meghalaya’s living root bridges in Northeastern India.

DISCUSS

  • If you were an engineer, what kind of engineer would you want to be? What would you want to design?

  • In the first video, we learned that engineers need to answer three questions: What problem needs to be solved? Who needs the problem solved? Why does the problem need to be solved? What are the answers to these questions for the communities building the rope bridge in Peru?

  • During this pandemic, engineers are playing an important role in trying to solve the problems related to how we can safely return to a more normal life. Where do you see engineers in action helping during this crisis?

DO

Practice engineering your own bridge with this online bridge builder game from PhysicsGames.net.

Then, make your own bridge using natural materials inspired by the grass bridges in Peru and root bridges in India. Here’s the challenge:

  • Collect natural materials: grasses, vines, roots, sticks, raffia, rocks, etc.

  • Make rope from your grasses or raffia (how-to from Instructables).

  • Make a chasm about 12 inches wide between two chairs, tables, etc.

  • Choose a toy about 1-3 inches tall. Imagine that it needs to cross the chasm.

  • Use the engineering design process--think, test, build, repeat--to engineer a bridge that can hold your voyager. Just like all engineers, you will probably need to try several different solutions before you find one that works. As long as you don’t give up and learn from what doesn't work, you’re an engineer!

SHARE

Share photos of your natural bridges and engineering ideas in the comments below, on Facebook, or by email.

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