By Barbara Mathias-Riegel
a good thing the civil engineering lab at Bucknell University is a substantial
size, because in it sit two 36-foot round logs cut from 60-foot used
telephone poles, complete with a small dose of creosote. It's a
timber bridge designed and built by two civil engineering students,
Megan Strand and Linda Steele. Commissioned by the Borough of Lewisburg,
Pa., the bridge will cross over a small stream in the township.
The job is done,
but the logs remain until the abutment of the existing bridge is removed.
Jai B. Kim, chairman and professor of Bucknell's department of
civil and environmental engineering, doesn't seem to mind the delay.
He likes looking at them every day. They are very romantic,
may seem a funny word, but Kim is passionate about bridges and especially
about the preservation of historic bridges. It all began nearly forty
years ago when he was an undergraduate at Oregon State and designed
a logging bridge for a lumber company. From there he went to Bucknell
where he taught and developed the Bucknell System, a method of strengthening
metal-truss bridges by building new arches that help carry the stress
load on the pin connections. Now a consultant on metal-truss bridges,
Kim brings his passion into the classroom where his students routinely
watch videos on historic bridges.
the Romans, Kim tells his students. They have 2,000-year-old-structures;
we don't even have 100-year-old bridges. When I read about dynamiting
the bridges, I get sick.
He also gets busy.
To date, Kim has supervised nine bridge projects with his students.
His most recent is the 132-year-old Henszey's Wrought-Iron Arch
Bridge that spans Ontelaunee Creek, situated on rich farmland near Harrisburg,
Pa., about 90 minutes from the Bucknell campus. Ninety-two feet long
and 18 feet wide, Henszey's bridge is a handsome sight, with its
wooden floor and bow-like arches. In 1985 it was deemed unsafe and shut
down with cement barricades at both ends.
It sat on
the site and was just rusting out until the president of Central Pennsylvania
College, a 600-student proprietary institution near Harrisburg, called
the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and asked if they had
any old spans, says Kim. He thought that connecting the
campus to the new academic building with a bridge would bring good and
new visibility, sort of, the old for the future.
Milano bid a whopping
$22 on Henszey's and won. Next he called Kim and asked if Bucknell's
engineering department would figure out if the bridge could be saved
and how much it would cost. Of course Kim agreed, but with some major
issue gets to be very complicated, explains Kim. Five years
from now when something happens to somebody on the bridge, who is going
to be responsible? He adds that there is also accidental risk
when the bridge is transported to its new site. The solution was a signed
agreement with Central Penn that neither Bucknell, the students, nor
Kim can guarantee the bridge report, and that it is for information
At the beginning
of their senior year, four engineering students were selected to produce
a feasibility study and a design. Under Kim's supervision, they
made numerous trips to the bridge where they measured every rod and
arch and calculated their findings into their structural-analysis software.
Back at the studio, they designed a way to reinforce the chords through
a series of loops and new pieces. Finally, they estimated that the moving
and rehabilitation would cost about $260,000.
Their study is
being reviewed and certified by a consulting engineering company in
Albany, New York and a contractor has been assigned to carry out the
work. And when will that be? It will happen soon, probably this
summer, says Kim. His pride in the part his students played in
saving the Henszey is clear. I don't know anybody who doesn't
love a bridge.
Mathias-Riegel is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.
By Barbara Mathias-Riegel
one thing to recognize the need for a pre-engineering curriculum at
the high school level, but who is going to teach such courses without
special training? And how will schools keep up with the latest developments
in engineering technology, which can be costly and complex to learn?
Richard Blais has
the answers. Through the generosity of the Charitable Venture Foundation
of Albany, N.Y., Blais and an exemplary group of educators have designed
a pre-engineering curriculum for public schools that is affordable and
highly professional. They call it Project Lead the Way (PLTW), and it's
like no other plan around.
We have basic
quality standards that we insist upon, says Blais, who is the
executive director of PLTW and has been working on this since 1985.
to Blais, when a school signs a contract with PLTW there is no exchange
of money. Instead, the school agrees that their teachers will be trained
and PLTW is obliged to provide that training, as well as a curriculum.
PLTW also provides a computer software leasing program and ongoing,
on-site training with visiting trainers and interactive CDs.
the school agrees to form a partnership team, drawn from members of
local industries and colleges, who will actively assist teachers with
instruction in specialized areas and mentor the students.
of the courses is advancing with events in modern technology,
says Guy Johnson, the director of the PLTW's National Training
Center at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). We have a group
of master teachers and professors who do revisions constantly.
is a four-year, five-course set for high schools and a one-year introductory
course at the middle school level; students interested in engineering
can take design, digital electronics, principles of engineering, and
computer integrated manufacturing.
a strong commitment within the organization to make the curriculum documents
be living documents, says Ken McDermith, a technology teacher
at Mohonasen High School in Schnectedy, NY, where the hands-on, team-oriented
PLTW courses have been enthusiastically received by the students for
the past three years.
After taking the
PLTW training, McDermith used it in his classroom for one year, qualifying
him to be a master teacher, meaning he now teaches at RIT's
training center along with a college professor. The summer training
is a 75-hour, two-week session for each course. There is so much
talent at (RIT) in the summer time. It's amazing, says McDermith.
Everybody has a niche, and you learn so much from them.
According to Johnson,
These courses are more than just content. Thirty to 50 percent
is on methods and that's where the master teachers are crucial.
They know what it is like to teach at the high school level.
teachers must take a pre-assessment test available on the Internet.
Once on board, the teachers pay nothing. Their training, lodging, transportation,
and stipend is covered by their state and/or school.
In 1998, 79 teachers
trained at RIT; two years later, there were 249 teachers. Currently,
more than 300 schools in 26 states offer PLTW courses taught by trained
teachers. Due to this rapid growth, several training centers are now
affiliated with RIT: The New Hampshire Institute of Technology, Ferris
State in Michigan, the University of Houston, the Rocky Mountain Regional
PLTW training center in Denver, and soon, Purdue University.
agreed to be an affiliate in cooperation with the State of Indiana Department
of Public Instruction. We have only a few administrative details to
work out, says Don K. Gentry, Dean of Purdue University's
School of Technology. We are major supporters of the ideals of
Jerry Foster, a
professor of electrical engineering at Purdue, notes how often he has
met high school teachers who were excited about the idea of teaching
pre-engineering but then felt restrained for lack of support and guidance.
No more excuses with PLTW around, says Foster. When the schools
buy into it, they buy into training and equipment. For more information,
go to http://www.pltw.org.
Mathias-Riegel is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC