Mustangs: Building Bridges, Literally
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The Kennesaw Mountain Structural Engineering club, with the help of engineer Bob Power and the support of Mrs. Angela Wood, was tasked with designing a bridge made of just toothpicks and glue. Approximately five months were spent designing the truss, testing different glue and toothpick brands, and assembling the bridge. All of this hard work led up to the final test: destroying it.
The team’s ultimate goal was to participate in the Toothpick Bridge Building Event hosted by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) at the Fernbank Science Center. At the event on Saturday, February 18, students state-wide brought their pre-made bridges to the Science Center in order to see whose could handle the most weight. Bridges were checked to ensure that they fit within the appropriate parameters for dimension and weight, then loaded one by one into the crushing machine. A screen to the right displayed red numbers measuring how much weight the bridge was taking before it failed. From 66.8 lbs to 103.2 lbs , and even 4.2 lbs, bridges were breaking left and right.
Finally, after almost all of the bridges had been destroyed, Kennesaw Mountain’s team walked to the front of the audience, carrying a bridge comprised of Elmer’s UltraMax Wood Glue and Kroger toothpicks, proudly sporting four flags bearing the KMHS logo. The machine was loaded and as the crowd watched, the screen displayed higher and higher values until stopping at [150.6 lbs], the highest of the day. Applause rang out, but there was also confusion. The bridge had not broken. There was not even the sound of a crack. After questioning, the technicians announced that they were not pushing the bridge any further for fear of it exploding and impaling those behind the protective glass. So, the bridge was returned to team KMHS with the promise of an attempt to crush it after all bridges had been tested.
Later, the bridge was retested to failure. The pressure grew and grew until, at a whopping 219.6 lbs, one end finally snapped. This was the greatest load of the day and greater than the records published on the ASCE website (although the records stop at 2004). The Mustangs emerged with the prize of glory.
“I like knowing that putting effort into something pays off,” Justin Harvey, a senior member proudly says.
Mrs. Wood commented, “I am very proud of everybody that has participated today. They worked very hard and I am excited to see our bridge broke over 200 lbs. That was pretty impressive!”
When asked what she learned from the club, junior member Tessa Lewis said, “Engineering is fun! Elmer’s UltraMax Wood Glue!”
The project could not have been completed without the help of Bob Power, who said, “It was awesome. The students did a great, great job.”
The club is expected to return next year with bigger and better ideas. Doors are open to everyone. Mustangs are building bridges in more ways than one.