Building Bridges with Shaun Errichiello
Shaun Errichiello’s math students at Lehman Alternative Community School (LACS) are learning about bridges by building them.
This fall, students have learned about and constructed different types of bridges, starting small with paper structures that run between two books, supporting the weight of pennies. Recently, they took on a larger challenge – a da Vinci bridge made from dowels and wooden boards that is self-supporting without the use of nails or other fasteners.
If built correctly, the da Vinci bridge will support weight, but not lateral force – it can be walked across, but will fall when pushed. It’s named after Leonardo da Vinci, who initially engineered the bridge’s design. “Da Vinci said if we each carry a stick or a piece of wood, we can assemble a bridge quickly,” Errichiello told the class. “That’s the idea here.”
The self-supporting bridge wasn’t initially part of Errichiello’s plans, but the class decided to try it out after one of his students, who admires da Vinci, suggested it. It turned out to be “quite the challenge,” Errichiello said.
After building a smaller version with popsicle sticks and watching videos of people building da Vinci bridges, students went outside armed with dowels and wooden boards to give it a shot for themselves. Each of the four attempts required teamwork and focus, and students noted what was successful and what needed to be changed. In the end, the bridge stood on its own but didn’t feel strong enough to walk across, and Errichiello and his class discussed what they could have done differently.
Next, the class will study and build versions of truss, suspension, and beam bridges.
Building Bridges was made possible with a Red and Gold Grant from the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI).