At The Peck School, perseverance goes hand in hand with design thinking and student-centered learning. Nowhere is this more evident than in the annual bridge design and bridge-breaking unit of instruction in Tim Loveday’s Grade 8 physics class.
For weeks, eighth graders have been prototyping their own unique bridge designs, hanging them with weights, breaking them, and refining their designs to produce ever more resilient and efficient structures. One week prior to The Peck School’s wildly-popular Bridge Breaking Assembly, the entire eighth grade class competes in a semi-final event. They gather to see how much weight their bridge designs can hold before they shatter or implode.
Every prototype must be constructed from a defined number of Popsicle sticks and a pre-determined allotment of hot glue. Students also design using the properties and characteristics of a variety of bridge types, such as beam, truss, arch, suspension, and cable-stayed. As they build their own unique designs, their efforts are grounded in concepts learned in class such as Newton's Third Law of Motion, forces acting in tension and compression, and material stresses.
From the semi-final event, eight students with the strongest bridge designs advance to compete in the main event: an engineering showdown attended by the entire school. They have one week prior to the assembly to construct their final bridge, which will call upon all they have learned throughout the process. This final bridge might be the last of dozens they have prototyped.
This year Addysen Downey, Bennett Crosby, Devon Nugent, Franklin Mau, James Thomas, Jordan Cheung, Pierce Malloy, and Trip Pendy advanced to compete in the 2019 Annual Bridge Breaking Assembly. Amidst the sound of snapping popsicle sticks and cheering classmates, Addysen Downey set a new student record. Her bridge held an astounding 359.5 pounds of weight before it collapsed under the pressure. With a mass of only 103.39 grams, her bridge design achieved an efficiency rating of more than 158,000 percent.