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What Gives?

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What Gives?

In this activity, learners design, build and test a model suspension bridge for sturdiness and strength. Participants explore how parts of the bridge, such as the deck, hangers, cables, towers and anchors, work together to keep the bridge up and support a heavy weighted object. Learners will use the design process to help develop and revise their structures. This activity may also be used with a unit on engineering, architecture, or a discussion on famous structures.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Model

English, Spanish

Materials List (per group of students)

  • 2 chairs with backs
  • 3 11" x 17" sheets of corrugated cardboard
  • Duct tape
  • String
  • Hole puncher
  • Scissors
  • Yard or meter stick
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Architectural Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Model Building
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Uses STEM to solve real-world problems
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • WGBH

Source Collection:

  • FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman


  • All Rights Reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, ©2008

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0714741
  • Public television viewers
  • Greendog


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