Building bridges, nurturing dreams

Posted on March 1, 2010

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When I think of engineers, I think of bridges and highways. While those are definitely things that (civil) engineers do, there are other kinds of engineers too (computer, aerospace, environmental etc). From building toys to computers to jet engines from scratch, the field of engineering is vast and very interesting — That’s what Engineer’s Day at Discovery Science Museum accomplished last week.

With hands-on demonstrations and special programs, engineers and friendly engineering students showed how math and science can help build a better world. There were giant cannons and trebuchets, a shuttle model made out of Knex .and a toothpick bridge making competition.

Toothpick bridges? I was intrigued -so my boys and I checked out the competition at the stage area of the science center. Only four entries – this shouldn’t take long, I thought. My 4 y.o. was getting antsy. Who wants to go? first asked the host. Two brothers volunteered to test their bridge first. The engineer placed the load block and an “S” hook on the bridge. Then he hung a 5 gallon bucket on the hook. The idea was to see how much sand the bridge could hold. The winner was the bridge with the highest “Structure Stability Score,” (load-to-weight capacity ratio). Slowly, the boys poured in scoops of sand into the bucket. One two three – holy cow! — this was going to take longer than I thought. So we left and explored the other exhibits.

Later we bumped into the kids who built the toothpick bridge – their names were Jonathan, 12 and Daniel, 8. I asked them if they won the contest – and guess what – they did! Their bridge actually carried over 53 lbs of sand. Wow! To see pictures and learn more about these amazing kids, you can check out their mom Linda’s blog.

We checked out the trebuchet for Pumpkin’ Chunkin’ and all the other regular exhibits. My boys built paper airplanes and foil boats and learned a little more about engineering that day. (Adding yet another option to their list of possible jobs in the future along with businessman, doctor, scientist, astronaut, rock star and movie actor).

If you’re thinking about purchasing a museum membership, I tell you, the Science Center membership is really worthwhile. Next up at the Discovery Science Center: Bubblefest! Can’t wait.

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