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Engineering Disasters: “The I-35W Mississippi River Bridge”


There will be two 'virtual' meetings for this project. Tuesday, March 27 10:00 am EST (9:00 CT, 8:00 MT, 7:00PT) - Introduction and project overview Tuesday, April 17 10:00 am EST (9:00 CT, 8:00 MT, 7:00PT) - Students will discuss the disaster of their choice For this project, we are going to view the impact of math, science, and engineering from the perspective of failure and in particular an event called an engineering disaster. Perhaps at no other time is the importance of these subjects more clear as when the consequences of improper calculations, designs, and drawings lead to catastrophic destruction, terror, and the loss of human life. We hope this hands-on project is not only interesting but informative as we explore and consider the importance and seriousness of these fields of study that can produce grand designs that at the same time marvel and threaten the casual observer. The technical component of this project is an analysis that uses applications of Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Engineering, and Physics. Here, students must model a bridge structure and then apply concepts from their Math and AP Physics classes to perform an engineering analysis on the forces within a bridge structure. Specifically, students will apply the method of sections to determine the internal forces of bridge members using the laws of static equilibrium. The literary component is a four page news letter that compliments the engineering analysis. Here, students will produce articles pertaining to the actual engineering disaster and engineering analysis. In addition, the relevancy of this topic will be explored with articles pertaining to the local infrastructure in the city of Newark, New Jersey. An honors Geometry class will be involved with this project. Students will be assigned groups each having a slightly different bridge to analyze and compare with each other. Furthermore, in addition to completing an open-ended assignment involving the engineering analysis and contributing to the news letter, each student must: complete a reflection on their project experience, contribute to the overall main project display, contribute to a power point presentation, and interact with students from other schools through video conferences. Note: Cooperating schools are encouraged to analyze any engineering disaster that they choose and apply any appropriate form of mathematical and scientific analysis for their projects. It is our intent to compare and contrast various engineering disasters and the mathematics and science associated with them.


March 2012 - April 2012