School of Architecture College of Design

Bridgeception by Cozy Hannula



Learning about structures through bridge construction

When I became an architecture student, I expected to be making a lot of models.  What I didn’t anticipate was how much fun it would be to break them.

One of my most memorable class projects this year was the bridge design competition my structures (ARCH 4571) class did. We split into teams and built two bridges and a cantilever.  Each was judged based on material efficiency, aesthetics, and amount of weight held. After an intense two weeks building the bridges, we all met in the Rapson Hall courtyard to test them until they broke: a simultaneously exciting and nerve-wracking experience.

The mood in studio leading up to testing day was a combination of competitive and encouraging. There were closely guarded bridge secrets, light-hearted boasts about whose bridge would win, and plenty of advice and encouragement between teams. There were plenty of humorous moments too, for instance when my friend Paul picked the longest name for his bridge design: “Double Shell Modified Pratt Reverse K Inverse Bowfin Truss” (A.K.A. Bridgeception).  

We went through bridge construction process from design to testing. This could be very frustrating at times, such as when my team decided to high five near our cantilever because it was successful, and the wind from high fiving caused it to break. It was also rewarding when our cantilever actually worked, though we made sure to carefully put it away before high fiving.

We finalized our bridge designs through a lot of trial and error and presented our finished projects to be weighed and tested. The courtyard was abuzz with nerves, but it was really fun to see all the bridges tested. My favorite moment was watching the winning bridge, which held 37.5 lbs. We were all amazed when the bridge stood strong, even as weights were added one by one. It was truly a spectacular design.  This project was invaluable because it helped us understand all of the challenges involved in making a bridge that holds significant weight, minimizes the amount of material used, and looks beautiful.



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