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Lesson Plans
Building Bridges
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students


Students work together to design and test a scale bridge. The Internet is utilized as a research tool to allow them to gain background information in three basic bridge designs -- beam, arch, and suspension -- and the forces that act upon them. At the conclusion of their research, the students choose a bridge style and construct a model that satisfies a given list of criteria. Destructive testing is also performed to measure deflection. A comparison of the different styles of bridges will be made to draw conclusions about the limitations of each design for its assigned application


Grade Level:

8 - 10 (Can be manipulated to work for higher level, academic courses like Physics)

Time Allotment:

This lesson requires about fifteen class periods.

Subject Matter:

Design & Technology
Physical Science

Curricular Uses:

Forces, Structures, Moments



Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Use the Internet as a tool to aid in research and design.
  • Identify and explain tension, compression, torsion, shear, and stress and strain as they relate to structures.
  • Name and identify variations of basic types of bridges: beam, truss, trestle, cantilever arch, stone arch, concrete arch, steel truss arch, arch suspension suspension, and cable stayed. Understand and calculate Moments on a simple beam.

Use of Internet:

Students will utilize the Internet as a research tool for structural and design information. Students should be encouraged to search beyond the suggested sites to find information on their own, further enhancing the feeling of discovery and ownership. They will visit several sites in order to gain background information into how bridges are designed, the types of bridges, and the forces that act upon bridges.

This lesson was developed by Phil Paspalas, wNetSchool Master Teacher, and was funded by the Louis Calder Foundation.