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Professor von Bülow’s Architecture Class Tests Model Bridges

Friday, November 20, 2015

Professor von Bülow’s Architecture Class Tests Model Bridges

On November 16, 2015, Professor Peter von Bülow’s architecture undergraduate Structures I class (Arch 314) tested model truss bridges they built by stacking bricks on top of the thin models, until the bridges came crashing down in a clatter of splintered wood and flying bricks. The class enables students to create their own models and enter into friendly competition with classmates.

The bridges are created using the principles and basic concepts of structures (momentum of force, equilibrium of force, and the structuring of trusses) to maintain large pressure loads. The bridges are first analyzed by technical software that give each group an approximation of how much weight the bridge might be able to withstand. Each group of students receives a score for their model bridge based on two factors: the weight of the bridge and the weight the bridge can hold.

Every bridge is videotaped as it is loaded with bricks and eventually breaks. To finish out the project, students will review the tapes and discover where their bridges failed and what could be done to rectify the issues, giving the students more real-world knowledge of structures.

“After having gone through hand calculations and computer analysis, this test gives students a more complete sense of how structures behave,” said Professor von Bülow.

The bridge models are an opportunity to collaboratively work on a design, solving a realistic problem. This process can apply to the students’ future careers, teaching them how to be both efficient and effective when designing architecture.

"I'd say the most helpful thing about the class is that it gets us thinking practically about how architecture is actually held together,” said Architecture Senior Nate Veldhoff. “As young design students, it's easy to just design something that looks exciting without considering how it might actually be built. So this class helps me keep that in mind as well as helps me understand the built environment I encounter on a daily basis,”

The usual score of a bridge was between 60-70, carrying a weight load between 40-100 lbs. The winning team, KFC, whose name is inspired by KFC’s original secret recipe, received a score of 94.03. Their bridge weighed only 3.8 ounces, but was able to hold 230 lbs of bricks before breaking.

Comprised of first year Masters of Architecture students Christina Kim, Kevin Sani, Sam Zou, and Naree Byun, Team KFC enjoyed being able to see something that they designed on paper perform, and succeed, in reality.