A whole afternoon is dedicated each week to the teaching of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) topics for Form 2 and further cross-curricular opportunities at Senior House. The bridge design and build project in the Michaelmas term demonstrated the success of this focused approach with Bridge Designer computer-based engineering, testing the strength of materials investigation and research, construction and testing of the children's individual bridges.
The different disciplines employed included investigations of the designs of the world's most famous bridges, the testing of various materials’ strength, experimental designs in simple materials to establish the shape of the strongest building blocks, computer-aided design to simulate and test whether their designs would work in theory and the final build and load test of the children’s designs. Form 2 took photos as evidence on their Chromebooks to document the process and display their completed structures. When using Bridge Designer, the children were able to have a realistic introduction to engineering through the design of a steel highway bridge, graphically modifying the design to strengthen any inadequately designed sections. As part of these sessions, they also had to consider factors such as tension and compression, geometry of their structure and the material and mechanical properties of their builds.
One STEM enthusiast explained, “We learnt that when designing bridges, it is important to make the bridge out of strong materials so it is stable but it is also necessary to think about the budget; strong materials are often the most expensive ones”. Another child remarked, “The best bit was working in teams to try to build the tallest tower with the least amount of materials and be the most cost-effective. This was a good way of working collaboratively and also thinking about factors like cost, best materials and the delegation of jobs. Testing our bridges was also one of the highlights as we couldn't predict which would be the sturdiest!'.