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Physics defied on weighted bridge

After an entire month of bridge building in Rod Atchley’s physics class, students set a new weight record.

“My goal for the bridge design and construction lab was to physically show students how real world structures work,” Atchley, science teacher, said. “The methods used by students are the same as those used by civil engineers world-wide.”

Students, however, seemed to be more motivated by competition than the opportunity to learn.

“My goal for this project, and for that matter the entire year, was to do better than Saagar Patel,” Chase Vanschoonhoven, ’04, said. “The fact that we set a new record while outdoing Saagar was just a perk.”

Setting this new record of 29.75 lbs. weight holding record was a planned process. However, Vanschoonhoven and Chris White, ’05, chose a simple construction process and materials were of a basic design.

“It was a lot of fun being able to set a new record in physics while being able to outdo Saagar’s bridge,” White said. “One of the reasons I think Chase and I were able to build stronger bridges than last years class is that we each built our own bridge instead using team built bridges. It also helped that we used a computer program to map out our measurements on the paper with amazing precision.”

“My goal for this project was to build the bridges within us, while experiencing the magnificence of manila folders,” Saagar Patel, ’05, said. “I was able to achieve this state of bliss simply by cutting out pre-measured shapes and then gluing them together.”

In the end plain manila folders proved to be quite powerful when methodically constructed.

Principal Gary Schultz watches the testing of the bridges each year and especially enjoyed the endurance displayed by this year’s structures.

“This is the part of school that can really be fun,” Schultz said. “It amazes me that while manila folders aren’t supposed to hold up any more than 20 pounds, students manage to break that barrier every year.”

For further opportunities to watch the testing of manila truss bridges during the last week of April, contact Atchley at 297-9464, ext. 142.

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