Make a Suspension Bridge

Students learn about tension, compression, torsion and shear by making a suspension bridge model

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**This lesson is part of The PrintLab Classroom lesson portal. To view details or to get access to the full portal, CLICK HERE**


In this hands-on project, students will learn about tension, compression, torsion and shear by making a suspension bridge model. Working in teams and guided by a workbook, students will be provided with an overview of suspension bridges before being challenged to design various components in Tinkercad software. Once 3D printed, the suspension bridge model is assembled and experiments take place to analyse the forces that act upon it. Enrolling in the lesson will give you complete access to the teacher training material and lesson documents. This includes content to help you prepare and deliver the lessons along with design tutorials so you become familiar with the process prior to teaching it in the classroom.

*Credit to Michael Tang, Teacher at Kameyosek School (Canada), for providing us with this lesson idea*

Subject Areas

The lesson can be incorporated into the study of maths, physics, design technology and computing. The material can be adapted for ages 10-16. The curriculum is aligned to NGSS, CCSS and UK National Curriculum standards. A comprehensive list of standards met is included in the lesson platform.

Learning Criteria

In this project students will:

  • Develop an understanding of suspension bridges and their structural components
  • Use CAD software to design and 3D print components for a suspension bridge model
  • Use craft techniques to build a suspension bridge model
  • Conduct experiments to develop an understanding of how tension, compression, torsion and shear act on suspension bridges
  • Use knowledge gained from making their model, together with research techniques, to suggest relevant improvements to their initial design

Equipment List

Each team of students (4-6) will require:
1 x laptop/computer with mouse and internet access to use Tinkercad software
1 x pair of scissors
1 x ball of cotton string
1 x reel of knitting thread
1 x hot glue gun
1 x roll of masking tape

1 x A3 size base material e.g. 3mm foam board

The teacher will require:
1 x 3D printer and PLA filament (http://weareprintlab.com/products)
1 x laptop/computer with mouse, internet access and slicing software (or Polar Cloud) for the 3D printer

**This process of assembling the suspension bridge model is of a relatively high difficulty. We recommend that teachers try building the example model first to determine if students have the capability to follow the instructions. Materials and instructions can be amended to suit the requirements of your class**