Jul 26, 2014
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Future Engineers Build Bridges At Eldredge

Mr. Saborio and Ms. Uhrin's fifth graders worked in teams and with faux budgets of $1.5 million had to budget, plan, construct and test their toothpick bridges.

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Building bridges is a complex business. Not only do you have to have some engineering smarts, but you need to be able to budget your money and manage the project.

Two fifth grade classes at Eldredge Elementary School learned all about building bridges during a science and math project they worked on in December.

"We had a budget of $1.5 million," explained fifth grader Emma MacDonald, a student in Ric Saborio's class. "We had to work together to build the strongest bridge."

That "budget" had to cover everything from the toothpicks used to construct the bridge itself ($10,000) to the "land" on which to build the bridge ($500,000). The students even had to pay for glue.

"Each group had a project director who was in charge of keeping a journal and running the group," said Saborio. "They had an architect — one student from each group designed the bridge. They had a carpenter who did a lot of the glueing, was kind of the glue-meister. And they had an account who was in charge of writing all the checks and handled all the money."

The project took about three weeks and included studying and drawing world-famous bridges.

The hardest part of the project? "Probably getting the supports in place to hold up the bridge and getting the toothpicks to stay on top of the bases without falling off," said Maddie Jenkins.

As the students got in their groups and prepared for a photo on Thursday, Dec. 22, one youngster could be heard extolling his classmates to be careful: "Whatever you do, don't drop 'em!"

That's because that afternoon was the big contest for the bridges - which bridge could hold the most weight?

The cardboard base for each bridge had a square hole in the center that would be used to thread a string through. At the top of the string, there would be a pencil that would rest on top of the bridge. At the other end of the string — the bottom — would be a suspended bucket. The idea was to see how many penny rolls could be added before the bridge broke under the pressure.

"It was quite exciting," recounted Saborio in an email afterwards. "The Tourqouise Unicornz came in first place by supporting 8.25 lbs before finally collapsing. The Unicornz just beat out the Eldredge Eagles who previously held the record by supporting 7.7 lbs. It was tons of fun to see."

And, if the children's excitement that Thursday morning was any gauge, tons of fun to work on too.

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