Friday, August 5, 2016

Five Ideas about an Engineering Vacation

Ready for some vacation engineering?
So, early in the summer we went to Charleston, South Carolina for a few days! It is THE MOST BEAUTIFUL and fun place to visit. I highly recommend that you spend some time there. Take a horse and buggy ride first and have your driver tell you the things you need to do.
In the meantime, I was captivated by things we saw that I tried to figure out.
 I mean, really, who looks at bridges and thinks about STEM......

STEM on vacation! Check this blog post for some things we saw on a recent vacation that made me think of STEM and what I could do in the classroom!

So, here's what happened. We went to this fort and one of the things we kept seeing were these little metal tracks, like railroad tracks, only curved. It took a while (and our tour guide's explanation) to figure out what these were. And then I was blown away. How on earth did people engineer that in the 1800's?
So that made me take a closer look at everything we saw- as a feat of engineering. I went back through my photos just to see what other things I captured .... Take a look!

This is the famous Pineapple fountain in Charleston, SC. Just think about how amazing that is. The water has to go through the statue in just the right way in order to spew out of all the little places and then make the perfect little water spouts. Isn't it gorgeous!
This is the famous Pineapple fountain. Just think about how amazing that is. The water has to go through the statue in just the right way in order to spew out of all the little places and then make the perfect little water spouts. Isn't it gorgeous!
Look at the photo below to see the whole thing and all the spouts working together. Amazing.
This is the famous Pineapple fountain in Charleston, SC. Just think about how amazing that is. The water has to go through the statue in just the right way in order to spew out of all the little places and then make the perfect little water spouts. Isn't it gorgeous!
It's actually much larger than it appears to be. There were kids all over the place wading in the water at the bottom and playing. This is in a little waterfront park with giant houses right across from the park. And in the distance you can see the bridge that was completely overwhelming!

STEM! The photo is showing only one of the cable sections. There are two. From a distance those cable look like strings, but when we drove across you realize these are gigantic steel cables. This photo will make students so excited about building suspension bridge models!
We drove across this bridge when we first got to Charleston and then back and forth across it several more times. It is truly a marvel. The photo above is showing only one of the cable sections. There are two. From a distance those cables look like strings, but when we drove across you realize these are gigantic steel cables. Look at the photos below to see more.

STEM! Driving across this fabulous bridge you realize these are gigantic steel cables. This photo will make students so excited about building suspension bridge models!
Even with those pictures you cannot truly understand the size of those cables. Those are light poles beside them if that will give you some perspective. My first thought when I saw this bridge was, "Oh my gosh, I cannot wait to show pictures of this to my students when we get ready to build suspension bridges again!" Yeah, I know, that is totally weird. But, I know they will be so excited. It's one thing to build a bridge from craft sticks and hot glue and quite another to see this marvel up close. It makes you appreciate those engineers that had this concept and then made it happen!
Our classroom Suspension Bridge project is located right {HERE}



Those are gigantic and weigh a huge amount. Certainly more than one person could push around. So, how on earth did the soldiers move them to aim?  Look closely at that photo above. See those little curved tracks. That's actual metal rails mounted into the ground so they could push the cannon wheels along the track to move them. More feats of engineering on this blog post!
Okay, this is the moment when I was blown away by how these cannons were engineered. First, of all, I thought cannons from the Revolutionary War or the Civil War were small. Y'all those are gigantic and weigh a huge amount. Certainly more than one person could push around. So, how on earth did the soldiers move them to aim? 
Look closely at that photo above. See those little curved tracks.
That's actual metal rails mounted into the ground so they could push the cannon wheels along the track to move them.
Those are gigantic and weigh a huge amount. Certainly more than one person could push around. So, how on earth did the soldiers move them to aim?  Look closely at that photo above. See those little curved tracks. That's actual metal rails mounted into the ground so they could push the cannon wheels along the track to move them. More feats of engineering on this blog post!
You can see the tracks in these photos, too. I thought this was truly genius and I can't wait to show my students these pictures. What do you think we can build- using this knowledge?!



This is the Angel Oak in Charleston, SC. First, of all, it's maybe 500 years old.  It's about 68 feet tall and the distance around the trunk is 28 feet. The spread of Angel Oak's branches takes in 17,000 square feet. The branches sweep the ground on all sides. It is truly a marvel. Check this blog post for more feats of engineering!
Okay, I am guilty of buying those tourist guidebooks when we go places. You know, the ones that always have a page called "The Top 10 Places You Must Visit"! And this little tree was strongly recommended. So, off we went, in pouring rain, to visit the Angel Oak Tree. This tree is in its own little park and the tree is not little.
First, of all, it's maybe 500 years old. 
It's about 68 feet tall and the distance around the trunk is 28 feet. That number seems little until you take a look at a tree in your yard. Our largest tree is about four feet in circumference. So, 28 feet is ridiculous. The spread of Angel Oak's branches takes in 17,000 square feet. The branches sweep the ground on all sides. It is truly astounding.

This is the Angel Oak in Charleston, SC. First, of all, it's maybe 500 years old.  It's about 68 feet tall and the distance around the trunk is 28 feet. The spread of Angel Oak's branches takes in 17,000 square feet. The branches sweep the ground on all sides. It is truly a marvel. Check this blog post for more feats of engineering!
So, how is this engineering. Well, you are going to have look closely. As we walked up under the gigantic branches I noticed giant nuts and bolts and then began to really look closely and found wires bolted to the branches and then bolted to lower branches. The tree limbs are so heavy that these cables are helping to hold them up. That's pretty clever, but also the folks that came up with the right places to add the cables and bolt them together is pretty genius. Look at that branch above! It's is bigger around than the largest tree in my yard!

This is the Angel Oak in Charleston, SC. First, of all, it's maybe 500 years old.  It's about 68 feet tall and the distance around the trunk is 28 feet. The spread of Angel Oak's branches takes in 17,000 square feet. The branches sweep the ground on all sides. It is truly a marvel. Check this blog post for more feats of engineering!
Then I noticed one more thing! A lot of the branches that are sweeping the ground have blocks of wood under them. I added an arrow to the photo to show you. Now, I am not sure why that block is there, but the engineers that helped this tree must have had  a good reason. Maybe to help alleviate the stress of laying on the ground. This made me think of a way to use the photo in class. What if I had this photo displayed, with the arrow, and had kids brainstorm the reason for those little blocks.....which led me to thinking about all kinds of photos we could use for this same reason! Wouldn't this make a great entry thinking question to start your science class?!
In the meantime, we stood at the base of this tree in total awe of its beauty and size. Not to mention being 500  years old!


This is Fort Sumter and a lot of it is still standing. Probably due to the way it was engineered and built. See the arches. Engineers know that an arch supports itself with downward compression and will remain standing long after other things have crashed. Check this blog post for more feats of engineering!
Alright, so how is a fort engineered? We actually visited two! Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. We rode a ferry out to Fort Sumter and, let me tell you, approaching that island fort was an awesome sight. It is just so tiny and when you consider its history and what its purpose was, it is just mind-boggling that this tiny island and fort withstood assaults. But, it did. And  a lot of it is still standing.
Probably due to the way it was engineered and built.
See the arches. Engineers know that an arch supports itself with downward compression and will remain standing long after other things have crashed. Think about the arched bridges in Italy that are hundreds of years old and still function. So, definitely the builders of this little fort thought about how to get the walls to remain standing even during attacks. The buildings you can see in the photo that have fallen were barracks that were built in rectangular shapes and you can see what is left of them!
I am guessing we need to build a house out of arches if we ever move. And I need to invent a STEM challenge that involves arches!

In the meantime do two things:
1. Go visit Charleston, South Carolina. You will love it!
2. Go visit Doodlebugs Teaching and see others that have joined this week's Five for Friday link up. Join yourself, too!



4 comments :

  1. I love Charleston, too. We went several years ago... our favorite was the ghost tour!! See you around. Kathleen Kidpeople Classroom

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  2. A teacher's mind never quits! I'm sure your kiddos will love the pictures!

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  3. Fascinating! I'll be looking at things differently after this! Have a great school year!
    ~Joyce
    1st Grade Pandamania

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    1. My brain tends to always look at the how of something before I appreciate the beauty of it. Then I am fascinated by how it all works together! Thanks for stopping by!

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