The Topic: 
Bridge Building

Easier - Bridges are structures built over a river, railroad track, road, or some other obstacle. They allow people or vehicles to cross from one side to another.
Harder - Bridges are structures used by people and vehicles to make crossing areas easier in travel. Engineers build bridges over rivers, lakes, ravines, canyons, railroads, and highways.
Bridges must be built strong enough to safely support their own weight as well as the weight of the people and vehicles that pass over it. The bridge must also withstand natural occurrences that include weathering, earthquakes, strong winds, and freezing and thawing.
Bridge from Fact Monster
This introductory site provides some basic information about bridges.
Other Introductory Bridge Information:
2) Basic Bridge Types from Matsuo Bridge
3) Bridge Basics: A Spotter's Guide to Bridge Design
4) Bridge Building: Art and Science
5) Bridge Building Information
6) Bridges from Idaho PTV's Building Big
7) Geometry of Bridge Construction
Bridge Pros
This comprehensive bridge-site is dedicated to the engineering, history and construction of bridges.
Not-To-Be-Missed Section:
2) Bridge Projects
How Bridges Work (Webpage 1 of 7) by M. Morrissey at How Stuff Works
This website looks at the three major types of bridges so that you can understand how each one works. The type of bridge used depends on various features of the obstacle.
Super Bridge from PBS NOVA Online
How would you span a freeway? A canyon? A river? Or an ocean waterway? Learn about the four major types of bridges and then test your knowledge by matching the right bridge to the right location.
Related PBS Website:
2) All About Bridges from Building Big
After visiting several of the websites, complete one or more of the following bridge building activities.
Inventory the Bridges in Your Area. Identify all the bridges in your area. Research their history. Identify the type of bridge construction that each represents. See if you can find out when they were built and by whom. Did they replace another bridge? Can you find any photographs of their construction? Consider putting your findings onto a spreadsheet. Put together a display that summarizes what you discovered about the bridges.
Build A Virtual Bridge. Use your skill and judgment to decide which bridge best fits each location at (1) Bridge Building ( Read the clues and follow the basic steps of a preliminary feasibility study to build the right bridge. Note that the navigation is a little confusing, stick with it and see if you can figure it out. Another virtual bridge building activity can be found at (2) Bridge Builder ( from PBS's TeacherSource.
Design and Build a Virtual Bridge Truss. Use the program at Bridge Designer ( to design trusses. Once a truss is drawn in the program, a click on "Calculate" will check your design. Another click will generate a complete force diagram showing compression/tension forces in each of the members and reactive forces at the support nodes.
Build a Bridge. After visiting several of the websites and looking at different designs, try your hand at making model bridges. First, draw out the design. Then select your material(s). Builders often use balsa wood, other types of wood, toothpicks, straws and even pasta (spaghetti). Model bridges can even be built from Legos. Check out (1) Lego Bridges ( from Jacob's Lego and (2) Bridges, Bridges, Bridges: The Bridges of LEGO® County website ( from "Weird Richard."
How Many Pennies Will Your Bridge Hold? Follow the directions found at File Card Bridges ( from Exploratorium and experiment to find the strongest design.
Complete a Bridge Builder WebQuest. Follow or adapt the directions found at these webQuest sites: 
1) Bridge Builders by J. Fuentes (4-6 grade)
2) Bridge Building WebQuest by M. Colletta
3) Bridge over Troubled Waters (Advanced) by A. Neill and K. Manning
4) Building Bridges (Grade 6) 
5) Creative Construction by H. McNeil
6) Spaghetti Bridge Building by J. Gillett
7) Technology & Bridge Design
8) Wonderful World of Bridges by L. Hackney . . .
Enter a Bridge Building Competition. Several competitions and their specifications can be found at the Bridge Building Home Page ( . If there are no bridge building contests in your area, start your own. Rules for a popsicle stick and toothpick bridge contest can be found at Bridge Building Contest ( Ideas for a cardboard bridge contest can be found at Bridge-Building Contest ( You can find the rules for a other bridge building contests at Physics Balsa Bridge Building Contest (, and Spaghetti Bridge Building Competition ( Another competition website that may be of interest is the West Point Bridge Design Contest (
Identify A Bridge. Test your bridge recognition at the Bridge of the Month Quiz (
Websites By Kids For Kids
KidBridges: A Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
This is the site of a project-based learning activity by middle school students in Brooklyn, NY.
Million Dollar Bridge
The Million Dollar Bridge was built in 1908 and has withstood Alaskan weather, an earthquake, disrepair, and neglect. It is still a point of debate today as to whether or not repairs should continue. Look at the entire history of this bridge, an extensive photo gallery, and an architectural study of the bridge. It explains what was needed to build a structure capable of withstanding Alaskan weather extremes. 
A Bunch More Bridge Websites
ABCD's Bridge Design Tips for Kids
So, you've been given a project to design and construct a bridge that will hold the most weight for a given span. Now you are probably wondering where to start. What type of bridge is the strongest?
Annual Bridge Inventory from Better Roads
This publication has reported annually the state of the nation's bridges since 1979.
Related Documents:
2) Better Roads: 1996 Bridge Inventory
3) Better Roads: 1994 Bridge Inventory
4) Better Roads: 1995 Bridge Inventory
5) Bridge Research: Leading the Way to the Future
Bridge Builder Magazine
This magazine focuses on the information needs of bridge contractors, bridge designers and engineers, government departments responsible for maintaining bridges, and related companies involved in the building, repair, and rehabilitation of both public and private bridges.
Related Journals:
2) Better Bridges Articles
3) Journal of Bridge Engineering from American Society of Civil Engineers
4) Roads & Bridges
Bridge Construction and Engineering
This site is dedicated to the engineering, history and construction of bridges.
Related Websites:
2) Bridge Engineering Home Page from SC Solutions
3) Innovative Bridge Research and Construction (IBRC) Program from U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration
Bridges from Northwestern University's Infrastructure Technology Institute
This site provides a comprehensive list of links to a variety of technical information about bridges.
Bridge Research: Leading the Way to the Future from Turner Fairbanks Highway Research Center
This article discusses the importance of research in maintaining America's bridges.
Cable Supported Structures
Here you find a comprehensive list of web sites containing information about cable supported structures and other related subjects.
Corrosion Protection: Concrete Bridges from Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
This report summarizes the progress made in the research programs for corrosion control of reinforcing steel in reinforced and prestressed concrete.
Historic Bridge Foundation
This site provides is a clearinghouse for information on the preservation of endangered bridges.
Historic Bridge Homepage from University of Florida Civil & Coastal Engineering
This civil engineering website provides pictures of cast and wrought iron bridges, early steel bridges, and early stone and concrete bridges. The bridges are ones over the Delaware River and others found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Florida.
Related Websites:
2) Historic Bridges from Washington State Dept. of Transportation
3) Historic Bridges of Virginia
4) Michigan Bridge Tour
5) Minnesota's Historic Bridges
6) Nebraska Historic Bridges
7) Oregon's Historic Bridges
Old Covered Bridges of Southeastern Pennsylvania
This is an online guide to the old covered bridges in the counties of Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Philadelphia, and nearby New Jersey, Maryland, and Delaware State.
Related Websites:
2) Covered Bridges from Pennsylvania Dutch Country
3) Covered Bridges of Madison County
4) Georgia Historic Covered Bridges
5) New England Covered Bridges from Yankee Life
6) Ohio's Covered Bridges
7) Vermont's Covered Bridges
Office of Bridge Administration of the U. S. Coast Guard
In 1967, the Bridge Program was transferred from the Army Corp of Engineers to the U.S. Coast Guard within the Department of Transportation.
Another Government Bridge Site:
2) Office of Bridge Technology from U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration
Pons from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities . . .
This article provides information about the ancient bridges of Greece and Rome.
Roebling's Bridge Division from Invention Factory
Ever wondered who built the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, and many other well-known bridge structures? Learn more at this section of the Roebling Online History Archive.
Truss Bridge Laboratory at University of Florida lab/trussndx.html
Here you learn the basics of truss bridge construction and the causes of their failure.
West Point Bridge Designer
At this site, you can download a software tool developed to help you learn about engineering, computer-aided design, and bridge structures. The software is in the public domain and intended for educational use only.
Pay For Bridge Software:
2) Model Bridge from Software Inventions (Demo can be downloaded)
More Websites On Specific Bridges
Index to Bridges:
Bridges: A Span for All Seasons by D. Denenberg
Bridges Building Types
Bridges Gallery
Bridges In The USA And Canada
Links to Bridge Pages in Internet
Mark Ketchum's Bridge Engineering Page
Major Bridges
Notable Modern Bridges from Fact Monster
Brooklyn Bridge: (1) Brooklyn Bridge, (2)
Brooklyn Bridge by S. Anderson, (3) Short History of the Brooklyn Bridge, (4) Brooklyn Bridge from Great Buildings Online
Campo Volantin Footbridge: Campo Volantin Footbridge from Great Buildings Online
Chesapeake Bay Bridge: (1) Chesapeake Bay Bridge - Tunnel Homepage ,
(2) Chesapeake Bay Bridge, (3) Painting the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, (4) Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel from PBS's Building Big . . ., (5) Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. Bridge-Tunnel by B. Holmberg and G. Reagan
Clark Bridge: (1) Clark Bridge - Alton, Illinois, (2)
Clark Bridge, (3) 10 Years of the 'New' Clark Bridge Easing Traffic Flow To and From Alton by V. Bennington from Illinois Business Journal - article continued
Clifton Suspension Bridge: (1) Clifton Suspension Bridge from Great Buildings Online, (2) Clifton Suspension Bridge, (3) Clifton Suspension Bridge Panorama from BBC . ., (4) Clifton Suspension Bridge,htm.htm, (5) Clifton Suspension Bridge from Wikipedia
 Coalbrookdale: Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale from Great Buildings Online, (2) The Iron Bridge . . ., (3) Iron Bridge at Coalbrookdale
George Washington Bridge: (1) Building the George Washington Bridge, (2) George Washington Bridge, (3) George Washington Bridge, (4) George Washington Bridge (Photographs), (5) George Washington Suspension Bridge
Gibraltar Bridge (Concept): (1) Gibraltar Bridge: Engineering the Impossible from Discovery
Channel, (2) Gilbraltar Bridge,
Golden Gate Bridge (See also: San Francisco Bay): (1) Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and
Transportation District, (2) Golden Gate Bridge Opens from Fact Monster, (3) Golden Gate Bridge, (4) Golden Gate Bridge from Great Buildings Online, (5) Golden Gate Bridge Facts by M. Thoma, (6) Golden Gate Bridge (Webpage 1 of 4) from
London Bridge: (1) London Bridge is Tourist Bait in Lake Havasu City, AZ by C. Woodbury from
Out West, (2) London Bridge from Fact Monster, (3) London Bridge from Dragonwing, (4) London Bridge around 1500 from BBC
Portland, Oregon: (1) Bridges of Portland, Oregon, (2)
Portland Bridges from Oregon Dept. of Transportation,
Quebec Bridge: First Quebec Bridge Disaster, (2) Quebec Bridge, (3) Quebec Bridge Failure by J.H. Lienhard, (4) Quebec Bridge, (5) Quebec Bridge Collapse from University of Toronto, (6) Collapse of the Quebec City Bridge by B. Ricketts from Mysteries of Canada
Royal Gorge Bridge: (1) Royal Gorge Bridge and Park (Canon City,CO), (2) Royal Gorge Bridge and Park (Video clip), (3) Suspension Bridges: The Royal Gorge Bridge, (4) Royal Gorge from Wikipedia
Saint Paul: Bridge Division of City of Saint Paul, MN
San Francisco Bay (See also: Golden Gate Bridge): (1) Bridging the Bay, (2) Bridges of San Francisco Bay, (3) Symphonies in Steel: Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate by J.B. McGloin from Museum of the City of San Francisco
Sydney Harbor Bridge: (1) Sydney Harbour Bridge from City of Sydney, (2) BridgeClimb, (3) Sydney Harbour Bridge
Tacoma Narrows Bridge: (1) Today's Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Use the forward control to
compare to the original design), (2) Tacoma Narrows Bridge (Includes video clip), (3) Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse from University of Toronto, (4) Tacoma Narrows Bridge Disaster, (5) History of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Williamsburg Bridge: At Work on the Living Bridges of New York City by L. Biemiller from The
Chronicle of Higher Education, (2) Williamsburg Bridge, (3) Williamsburg Bridge, (4) Over 100 Years, The Williamsburg Bridge Has Diversified A Borough by J. Berger
Websites for Teachers
Bridge Builder (Grades 4-9) from PBS Teachersource
This activity allows students to try their hand at designing bridges.
Bridge Building from PBS's Nova Online
This teachers guide accompanies the Nova Super Bridge program.
Bridge Building Project
In this unit, students will design and build models of bridges intended for a local creek or river.
Bridge Construction (Grades 5-12)
Students build a model of a bridge and test the amount of weight it will support.
Related Lesson Plan:
Suspension Bridge Construction (Grades 5-12)
Bridges (Grades 9-12)
Here is a teacher guide for a ten-day student project on bridges and bridge-building.
Bridges (Grade 8) by A. Warner's%20bridges.htm
Here is a lesson guide for a unit on bridges.
Bridges by N. Budnitz from Center for Inquiry Based Learning (CIBL) at Duke University
Each student builds the lightest-weight bridge he or she can that spans a 24-inch space between two supports. The bridge must be made from simple materials and must be able to support a standard brick (about five pounds). In the process, students formulate the basic engineering principles of bridge design.
Bridges: How Do Different Bridge Designs Work? from Newton's Apple 
This lesson plan is designed to help learners answer why they would choose one bridge design over another? How do bridges stay up? What different kinds of bridges are built? What is a truss?
Related Lessons:
2) Bridge Design Project (Grades 9-12) by F. Kramer
3) Bridges from Newton's Apple
Building a Paper Bridge: An Introduction to Problem Solving (Grade 8) by S. Waltson from Learn NC . . .
The student is to build the longest non-supported single span bridge possible using one sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper.
Related Lesson from Learn NC:
2) Building Bridges (Grade 6) by A. Davidson, S. Davidson, & S. Gibson . . .
Building Model Bridges Following the Engineering Process (Grades 5-8) by J. Lewis from Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
The curriculum unit will be divided into three major sections. The first section will introduce students to the three major types of bridges, second section will discuss the engineering process in bridge design, and the final section introduce one type of bridge building contest.
Connecting With Bridges (Grade 5) by R. Anderson, L. Cline, & A. Pugh
This lesson unit introduces the basic bridge types and the physical concepts involved in bridge building, requires students to research a bridge, develop a Power Point presentation reflecting what was learned, compare and contrast the bridges studied by constructing a table, and finally, to collaborate as a team to build a successful model of a bridge.
Hands on Bridge Building (Grades 5-8)
The spaghetti bridge can be a fun and challenging activity that integrates math and science. The bridge will be designed and built by the students out of inexpensive materials such as spaghetti, tape and glue. It will require the students to do a cost analysis of their project and to conceptualize how their completed project will look before having built it.
Lesson (5th Grade)
This lesson to investigates and explores the basic architectural and design principles/concepts used to create an arch bridge. The learner will then apply these principles/concepts to build model bridges to test for live load capacity. Lesson plan includes four different activities.
Pre-Engineering Software Corporation
Pre-Engineering Software Corporation develops and publishes teaching tools for middle and high school that introduce students to the adventure of solving true-life engineering problems while reinforcing their math and science skills.
Toothpick Bridges and Other Structures
Bridges have been an essential part of transportation for hundreds of years, and it is the job of civil engineers to design the safest, most durable bridges possible. This site provides a differentiated lesson plan for investigating bridges.
arch bridge
covered bridge
civil engineering
Bureau of Transportation
beam bridge
iron & steel
box girder
distributed load
reinforced concrete
suspension bridge
cablestayed bridge
Catenary arch
bridge rail
U.S. Dept. of Transportation
building & construction
swing bridge
elastic limit
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 11/99. Updated 10/03.