Once completed, the suspension bridge was a total of 25 feet long, 8 feet high and could support a 100-pound concrete panel. The bridge was assembled early Monday morning on Dexter Lawn.

Hillary Kaiser

Dexter Lawn looked like a scene right out of Legoland on Monday, but the suspension bridge was more than a colorful display, it was an architecture project.

The 25-foot-long, 8-foot-high suspension bridge, designed to support a 100-pound hanging concrete panel, was composed of more than 10,000 K’NEX pieces, a popular children’s toy, according to associate architecture professor Craig Baltimore.

“The course takes construction management and architecture students through the design process of large construction projects from the beginning with the conceptual design to the end, where you actually build the design, and all the phases in between,” Baltimore said.

Two architectural engineering classes were introduced to the phases of designing, engineering and constructing a large-scale project during winter quarter. To bring their design to life, 13 of these architecture students built their suspension bridge early Monday morning and left it on display all day.

Before assembling the bridge, students began putting pieces of it together a week in advance. In addition, on Saturday they put it all together in the staging process to make sure it would come together properly on Monday.

“This is not an academic exercise, it is a reality-based exercise,” Baltimore said. “It was immeasurable for students to be able to see how the paper design and the actual design have to match. If you leave one component out, the structures are going to know that.”

A key takeaway from the project was realizing that things don’t always work out perfectly when bringing the plan from paper to real life, architecture junior Lilly Wellington said.

“You have to expect for things to go wrong that you could never plan for,” Wellington said. “You plan as much as you can, but there will always be things you won’t expect and you have to plan for that.”

In addition, Wellington said the experience was invaluable because she learned information important in the real world that one can’t always get from textbooks.

“Rather than the normal lecturing of the different physics and calculus we need to know, we got hands on experience,” Wellington said. “We went through all the steps that we would go through on a normal job.”

The use as a toy aside, architectural engineering department chair Allen Estes said K’NEX are a great tool to demonstrate concepts that are part of the larger course exercises. In this instance, the toys were used to show the principles of building a suspension bridge.

“I personally think these toys are great,” Estes said. “You can do so much with them in an engineering class. I am grateful to (Baltimore) and his class for doing this in such a public way.”

K’NEX Corportation, who donated 14,000 pieces to the school, will meet with Estes in the coming weeks to discuss further partnerships.

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