Once of the most “suspenseful” gatherings at The Peck school is the annual Bridge Breaking Assembly. Every year, students in Grade 8 Physics are challenged with constructing the best possible bridge from an allotment of materials. The design constraints are tweaked slightly each year, so that students work from original designs and compete not only amongst themselves to build the strongest span, but test their designs against concepts created under slightly different circumstances in previous years.
This year, students were allotted 55 popsicle sticks and a pre-determined amount of hot glue. After studying the properties and characteristics of a variety of bridge types, such as beam, truss, arch, suspension, and cable stayed, students set to work prototyping their models. Their efforts were grounded in concepts learned in class such as Newton's 3rd law of motion, forces acting in tension and compression, and material stresses.
Last year, students were limited in the number of bridges they could prototype and re-engineer prior to creating their competition models; but this year, students were allowed to try as many models as they wished. Some students built ten or fifteen prototypes in the process of deciding on their final concept.
“What I like about the project is that it's iterative, so students have the opportunity to try out different designs, test them, and learn from the results. They then take that data, and question what can be improved, or done differently—and apply that knowledge to redesigning and constructing their next bridge,” explains Science Department Head and Teacher, Tim Loveday.
Eighth-grade student Chris Keating's final bridge design set a new Peck school record and held a massive 304 lbs. of weight before succumbing to the stress. In the efficiency category, Joe Porto's bridge broke a record as well. Based on the actualweight of his bridge compared to the amount of weight supported, his engineering marvel was rated at 144,000% efficiency!