A Bridge Too Far

The island of Sicily lies about two miles off the coast of mainland Italy, separated by a deep channel of water. The Italian government hopes to span this gap with a suspension bridge that will be nearly twice as long as the current record holder (the 1.24 mile Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan). There will be many challenges. In addition to creating a stable support, the designers need to consider the significant seismic activity in the area. The bridge needs to be earthquake resistant, to survive all but the most devastating tremors.

By Michael DiSpezio|Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Build Your Own


Did you ever want to design a tower or a bridge? Great. Because this is your chance to put those engineering skills to the test. Your challenge is to construct a model bridge that can support increasing amounts of weight.

Fettuccine pasta


Kite string


Small plastic bucket

Coins or metal bolts



1. What does each of your building materials represent in actual bridge construction? (Fettuccine = steel girders; clay = rivets and welding; string = cable.)

2. Could you use too much clay? Explain. (Yes. If too much clay is used, then the weight of the clay becomes an issue.)

3. From what you have observed, is fettuccine stronger when it is laid flat or on its edge? (On its edge.)

Geography Connection


Examine the satellite photograph of the Strait of Messina on page 41. Where in the world is it? Use online and print resources to uncover the location on a world map. Then, identify its position using latitude and longitude measurements.



Galloping Girtie

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, also known as Galloping Girtie, collapsed in 1940. To learn more about this bridge check out the illustrated history site at http://www.lib.washington.edu/specialcoll/tnb/ You can download and view an MPEG video clip of the collapse at http://cee.carleton.ca/Exhibits/Tacoma_Narrows/



Building with Paper

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For a different type of construction challenge, get three sheets of newspaper and a 6-inch length of tape. Use these materials to build the highest tower that can support the weight of a tennis ball. Have a class competition to see who has the best design.  

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