Beam Bridge Lesson for Kids: Facts & Design

Instructor: Tiffany Hightower

Tiffany is a certified elementary school teacher. She has a B.A. in English, education certification and a master's degree in education from Central Michigan University.

Have you ever wondered about who designs beam bridges, how beam bridges are built and how strong they are? In this lesson, you will learn all of these interesting facts and more.

What's a Beam Bridge?

Do you enjoy building structures with toy blocks? Most kids enjoy stacking toy blocks into creative shapes to build houses, toy cars and even bridges. Typically, when children build a toy bridge, they take two blocks and stand them straight up and down in a vertical position. Then, they place one horizontal block across the top of the two vertical blocks. This set of blocks is designed similar to a beam bridge. A beam bridge is a bridge that is made of two or more strong towers that support one or more horizontal beams, or long sturdy pieces of wood or metal.

This beam bridge has horizontal beams and strong towers to hold its weight.

Who Designs Beam Bridges?

Engineers are scientists who design beam bridges, among other structures. They must be very smart and talented in the areas of math and science to design and oversee the construction of beam bridges. Engineers have to think about a variety of factors when designing a beam bridge. Some questions they ask themselves include:

  • Will the beam bridge be short or long?
  • Will the beam bridge be designed for people to walk or bicycle across?
  • Will cars and enormous 18-wheel trucks travel over it?
  • Will it go over water?
  • What is the climate in the area where the beam bridge will be located?

After answering important questions like these and considering factors like strength, safety and sturdiness, they use math, science and drawing to create the best design for the beam bridge.

How Strong Are Beam Bridges?

Beam bridges have different levels of strength. A beam bridge designed to cross over a stream at a park will be much weaker than a beam bridge designed for trains, 18-wheelers and cars, which have tons of weight. The towers that support the beams are designed to be powerful enough to withstand the weight of the beams and the weight of the people and vehicles that cross over them.

Have you ever seen a person try to chop a piece of wood in half? They don't usually chop the wood in half on the first try. However, the wood will begin to bend a little. This happens to the beams on beam bridges. They are designed to bend a little on the top without breaking at the bottom, giving it enough support to hold large amounts of weight. Engineers design beam bridges with a continuous pattern of strong towers when they span long distances.

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