MS Bridges: Welcome to Mr. Eves!

Joining us this year at Providence is the highly qualified Mr. Matt Eves. A long-time friend of Mr. Meadth, Mr. Eves brings his experiences in engineering and business to the AP Calculus AB class with our seniors, and the Intro to Engineering class with the middle schoolers.

Mr. Eves wasted no time in getting down to one of our famous projects: The Bridge! In teams of two, with a list of required constraints, they set about building the longest possible bridge. This is more than just messing around with LEGO; students were demonstrating that they had learned the underlying structural principles of triangular trusses and bending beams.

Josue and Larry measure their jointed creation

Jeffry, one of the able teacher assistants, helps Paul and Ryken

Elizabeth, Carmen, Nate, and Abigail take a moment to smile!

Taylor and Will understood the need for vertical triangles…
is there anything they were still missing?

Tess and Bryce carefully counting the pieces they used

Jonny, another of our teacher assistants, helping Hunter and Reggie

(By the way, if you’re wondering about the teacher assistants: Jonny, Jeffry, Emma, and Ruby are all acting in this capacity this semester. Having taken this class once already, they are now bringing their learning to another level by helping the other students. There is no better way to learn than by teaching! They have also been taking time out with Mr. Meadth during class to learn CAD tools, with some of their creations being 3D printed.)

Upon completion, the seven teams laid wooden tracks across their bridges and put them to the test. All teams performed incredibly well, with almost no flexing evident. The following video shows the tests–in each one, what elements of design do you see that are contributing to the bridge’s strength?

A great start to the year! Next step: learning about gears and torque. Students will combine these lessons with their knowledge of structural strength to build a special machine… can you guess what it is? All this, so we can learn to build a robot that moves properly and is mechanically strong.

Browse around and check out some of our other recent posts. Feel free to email Mr. Meadth or Mr. Eves for any questions about the Providence engineering programs, and share this post freely with family and friends!

MS Engineering: The First Month

The popularity of the middle school engineering program at Providence has really taken off this year; for the first time, we will be admitting eighteen students in both first and second semester! It’s our largest class size yet for this program, which is exciting. But what exactly, I hear you ask, are students doing in that class?

We kicked off the year with some pretty standard stuff. Newton’s Laws kept us busy for a little while, talking about how objects in this universe move and interact. The highlight of this unit would have to be the inertia demonstration. Remove one tablecloth very quickly from underneath a dinner set, and hope that inertia does its job! Ryan was a very cooperative test subject.

The students also started the year with some simple challenges, focusing on teamwork, speed, and intuitive design. How many textbooks can you hold up, at least five inches off the table, using only two sheets of paper and a yard of tape? By the way, you only have two minutes to plan and three minutes to build! The class record is 26, held by Josh and Pedro a couple of years ago, but hats off this year to Audrie and Kassy, holding 12 books six inches high. At 3.6 pounds per textbook, that’s 43 pounds!

Paul and Lily look on as Ella places her third book; unfortunately,
it was the straw that broke the camel’s back

The most recent challenge was to build a bridge between two desks. After learning some basic principles of structural mechanics (triangle rigidity and maximizing the second moment of area of the cross-section), the students set about the task. We always talk in terms of constraints in this class, and the various constraints were as follows:

Only allowed to use LEGO beams from a provided parts list
Three days of class
Teams of two
As long as possible (maximize)
Must support wooden train tracks (static load) and a motorized train running across it (dynamic load)
Must demonstrate the principles of good bending structures that we talked about
After breaking into teams, the students quickly set about collecting their pieces, and sketching their designs. Our enthusiastic students snapped together beams and frames, doing their best to imitate the rigid triangular structures they had been shown.
Gideon, Liza, and Kaitlyn working hard!

Tensions ran high (no pun intended) as the heavy little locomotive crawled across the tracks. The length of the bridges varied widely, from the shortest at 30 cm (1 ft) to the longest at 99 cm (over 3 ft). But most importantly: would the helpless engine tumble into the chasm?

The little engine thought it could, and so did Dennis and Jeffry,
with their sharply defined triangles clearly showing

Audrey and Kassy almost lost their load, but everything held
together in the end!

Miranda and Evan held their breath as the locomotive crawled
across their creation
In fact, although we desperately wanted to see some disaster, not a single one of the bridges failed! This is a new record in the engineering elective, and perhaps a tribute to their collective wisdom and skill (or maybe to their teacher?).
The next challenge? Use their knowledge of torque and rotation to build a crane that can lift as much load as possible.
Kassy and Evan carefully plan their motorized crane
Ella applies the power of a protractor

Dennis and Paul take a break from the drawing board to pose
for the camera

Tully and Liza consider Mr. Meadth’s past designs
Stay tuned, and don’t forget to ask your students how the work is coming!