Bridge building is usually considered a task best left to skilled engineers with many years of education and experience. But it can be so much more. Third grade students in Mrs. Pichowski’s class at Sugar Camp Elementary are learning it is never too early to start thinking about all the things that go into a bridge, the load requirements, the width of the span, what structure works best to provide the required strength.
With the help of her engineer husband, the students learned about how different shapes, squares, circles, and triangles contribute to the strength of a bridge. From these theoretical concepts they drew concepts of what a bridge should look like and even made some scale models from spaghetti noodles and marshmallows.
Once they had these ideas they came to Fab Lab Three Lakes and spent a morning working on their engineering design with students in the How to Make (Almost) Anything class. HTMAA students worked in teams with the third graders turning their concepts into engineering drawings in SolidWorks, a 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) program. HTMAA students will now work to cut the bridge pieces they designed out of cardboard using the laser and assemble the bridges. After Memorial Day the third graders will return and test their bridges for strength.
Even though the students are focused on building cardboard bridges, they are also building bridges between themselves and the senior high HTMAA students, and they are bridging school lessons and hands-on construction.
In addition to being a place for students to make things, Fab Lab Three Lakes is open to the public on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday mornings 8 a.m. until noon. Individual and family memberships are available for a nominal fee. Members pay for materials as they use them. All are invited to come in and engage in bridge building.