Civil engineering is a field for problem solvers. From setting up water systems for drinking and irrigation to major transportation systems like highways, airports, subways, and railroads, civil engineers take on big challenges. In today's world, civil engineers also face big challenges: providing the modern infrastructure for a growing human population, and finding ways to do this that are environmentally sound, safe, and cost-effective. Experience what it is like, on a smaller scale, to tackle these problems with one of our student-sized civil engineering projects.
How strongly do different types of nails hold in wood? Try different diameters of nails, and try pounding them to different depths. To gauge the holding strength, measure how difficult it is to remove the nail. Can you pull it out with a pair of pliers? Can you remove it with the hammer claw? Do you have to push only a little bit, moderately hard, or as hard as you can? Do you need a crowbar? What happens if you pre-drill holes for the nails, using drill bits that are different…
Using just a single sheet of paper (8.5 x 11 inches) and up to five paper clips, can you build a bridge that will span 20 cm and support the weight of 100 pennies? The area beneath the span must be free (so that boats can pass beneath it). To test your bridge, place two books 20 cm apart, and set the bridge on the books, spanning the gap. Do not fasten the bridge to the book (nor to any other support). Does your bridge hold as much weight as you expected it would? If your bridge fails…
Start with 7 drinking straws and 14 paper clips. Use the paper clips to fasten the straws together. Here's how: 1) Clip two paper clips together, narrow end to narrow end. 2) Push the wide ends of each clip into the end of a straw. That's it! Connect four straws to make a square, and three straws to make a triangle. Now test which shape is stronger. Hold the shapes vertically, with an edge or a vertex resting on the tabletop. Have a helper push on the opposite side or vertex. Which shape…
Try gluing wood together with different types of glue, e.g.: regular white glue, yellow wood glue, cyanoacrylate (super glue), and Liquid Nails. Glue a short piece (5-8 cm) to the center of a longer piece (15-30 cm). After the glue has dried for the recommended time, drill a small hole through the center of the joint, big enough to pass through a piece of coat-hanger wire. Cut a length of coat hanger wire, pass it through the hole, and twist the ends together to form a loop. Place the ends…
There are many types of construction materials used for wood-frame houses. Compare the different uses for and strengths of different building materials, e.g.: particle board,
plywood, pine, oriented strand board (OSB), and drywall (gypsum board, SheetRock). The Science Buddies Materials Science Resource will be helpful for learning about different ways to measure material strength. You should be sure to use the same cross-sectional area of each material in order to make fair comparisons.…
A bridge collapse, like that of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge, can be a major disaster. Bridges that cannot hold enough weight to do their intended job can be a serious public safety issue. And if they collapse, they can also cause economic damage due to costly rebuilding and people and companies scrambling to figure out how to circumvent the months of traffic impacts.
On August 1, 2007 the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge collapsed killing 13 people and injuring 140…
This is an interesting project that explores which geometrical shapes make the strongest bridge truss structures. It is a good introduction to the engineering design process. You'll design three different trusses, and use online simulation software to analyze the distribution of load-bearing forces in each design. Then you'll build and test prototypes of each design.
+ More Details
- Less Details
Average (6-10 days)
Excellent computer skills, high school physics course
Low ($20 - $50)
Use caution with sharp tools when cutting wooden parts to size. Adult supervision recommended for bridge-testing phase.
You can find this page online at: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project-ideas/civil-engineering?p=2
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