Tacoma Narrows Bridge Lesson Plans
Science Lab Activity
Construction of 1940 and Reconstruction in 1950
The purpose of this lab activity is to introduce the challenges
of building a suspension bridge. Students will explore the engineering
challenges of building the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1950.
Lesson Objectives
As a result of this lesson, students will be able
to:
 Develop an understanding of the design constraints engineers
encounter when building a bridge
 Begin to understand the important of planning before building
their bridge especially when supplies are limited.
Materials Needed:
 8 feet of string per group, a roll of masking tape, a cardboard
box, pencil, scissors, popsickle sticks, sand or clay, books,
and a piece of paper.
Lesson Steps
1. Students will break up into groups
of four.
2. Each group
will obtain their materials.
3. The group must construct a suspension bridge
across two stacks of books with the materials listed above.
4. The group must sketch the bridge they
built.
5. After the sketch is complete, the
group will use the Narrows Bridge web site illustration of basic
suspension bridge parts to label their drawing with the different
parts of a typical suspension bridge.
6. The group will measure the following
in inches:
 Length of bridge
 Length of center span
 Height of towers from bottom to top
 Width of deck on the bridge
Rules:
 You may not talk to the group across from you.
 You cannot use any more material than what was given to you.
 Record any design changes you make when building your bridge
and explain why this was necessary.
PostLab Activity: The students should
describe what they observed during this activity as well as some
principles of physics. The similarities between engineering a bridge
and building their model bridge will be noted.
Relating Mathematics: Use the following
measurements of the current Tacoma Narrows Bridge to have the students
compare the measurements of their bridge to the real bridge. Incorporate
scale factor. The
Bridge Machine Since 1950 has “Span Statistics”
that could be used in the classroom for fun facts:
Length: 

5,979 feet 
Length of center span: 

2,800 feet 
Width of the deck 

46 feet 9 inches 
Height of towers from the pier to the top of the
tower: 

467 feet 
Related links on this site:
Evaluation
Evaluate each attribute on an appropriate scale based on your own
school’s grading system, for example giving points or letter
grades, or ask students to evaluate the projects that they observe.
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