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The Student News Site of Fresno Christian High School

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Physics tests structural integrity with manila folders

On campus physics classes have a history of disappointment for both the staff and students. This year should be different. Rod Atchley, science teacher, challenges his class of 10 students to expand their knowledge through their own mistakes and achievements. Each student is building a model of a truss bridge from strips of manila folders.

The project began in early February and Atchley said they may take as much time as necessary to complete it. When the day comes to test the truss bridges, the students will see the effects of construction quality on the performance of their structure.

“When we finally finish,” Atchley said, “we’ll load them up with 20 pounds of books and see how they hold up. The bridges are actually designed to hold twice that amount but every contractor knows not to test them at their maximum weight ability.”

A truss is defined as a structure composed of members- the strips and triangles of manila folders- connected together to form a rigid framework.

“We all work together- from cutting and gluing to understanding the concepts of engineering and cost efficiency,” Jenny Ficklin, ’04, said. “It’s really nice that your classmates are willing to help you out because when it comes to assembling, I know I’ll need it.”

Although several of the students do not hope to become contractors, they will become aware of the challenges in structural engineering. They will learn of the following concepts: force, reaction, equilibrium, tension, compression and strength.

“The students will also learn how to structurally analyze geometry,” Atchley said. “They will determine how much stress is on each member of the bridge and how to shift that stress if needed to create a sturdy bridge.”

Although physics students are able to enjoy this activity they must bring their focus and attention back to their work.

“I have been enjoying this project,” Michelle Smith, ’04, said, “but lately I haven’t been able to concentrate as I am more focused and stressed about the Valley Championship soccer game.”

For more information on the project, contact Atchley at 297-9464.

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