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Earthquake Safe Structures

Buildings can be made to withstand earthquakes; pipes can be designed to reduce fire hazard after an earthquake.

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Building Bridges
Teacher Contributed

Building Bridges


The San Francisco Bay Bridge Construction

Student Exploration

Have you ever been worried while traveling over a bridge that it might collapse?

The San Francisco Bay Bridge did just that in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake! A section of the upper deck collapsed down onto the lower deck. Since then, engineers have been designing and building a new bridge that is more seismically safe:


Can you design a seismically safe bridge?

Extension Investigation

  1. Using the Bridge to Classroom’s bridge simulator (http://eduweb.com/portfolio/bridgetoclassroom/engineeringfor.html), build a model of your own that you think could withstand an earthquake.
    1. Begin by looking at the various types of bridges (beam girder, steel arch, etc.). For each type of bridge, draw a sketch and describe its characteristics.
    2. Decide which type of bridge you want for each segment of the bridge. Drag them into place.
    3. For each of the safety features, draw a sketch and describe their characteristics.
    4. Add safety features as necessary to your bridge.
    5. Now, test your bridge! Select different fault lines and magnitudes. Record the results of your tests.
    6. Go back and redesign to build a more seismically safe structure!
  2. Now that you are familiar with the critical factors when designing a seismically safe structure and with the various bridge designs, create your own bridge! Using only toothpicks and glue, can you create a bridge that can withstand the most amount of shaking and support the most amount of weight? http://www.worsleyschool.net/science/files/bridge/bridge2.html

Resources Cited

Danny Forster. Build it Bigger. http://www.dannyforster.com/tv/build-it-bigger/san-fran-oakland-bay-bridge

Eduweb. http://eduweb.com/portfolio/bridgetoclassroom/engineeringfor.html

Bill Willis. Worsley School. http://www.worsleyschool.net/science/files/bridge/bridge2.html

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