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How to Build a Popsicle Stick Bridge
A popsicle stick bridge project is perfect for acquainting your kids with the basic physical forces like tension and compression while building mini replicas of the ever useful structures of our daily commute. It is an excellent idea for a science project and fairs, not to mention the highly engaging contests kids love to participate in.
Instructions for Making a Bridge out of Popsicle Sticks
- Popsicle sticks
- A sheet of Balsa wood
- Glue (make sure to choose a good quality one)
- Utility knife
- A pair of bricks
Directions for a Strong Bridge
- With the help of a utility knife, carefully cut a chunk of balsa wood into fourteen square pieces, each having 2” sides. They serve as the gusset plates for your bridge.
- Tape a total of 7 gusset plates to your work surface. Now hot glue the popsicle sticks to the gussets as shown in the picture. Take care to keep the glued junctions neat by aligning the sticks to form clean equilateral triangles.
- Once the glue sets, take off the tapes, flip the truss over and attach popsicle sticks over the existing ones for doubling up on the strength.
- Now build a second truss in a similar fashion.
- Place the bricks about 4” apart on your working surface parallel to each other. Tape the ends of each truss to the bricks to make them stand parallel to each other.
- Now you need to join the pair of trusses with the help of popsicle sticks at the top, bottom and sides. Put in a considerable amount of them as they connect the points where maximum tension occur. As you do this, take care that both the trusses are rendered perfectly perpendicular to the ground without any bending.
Testing your Bridge
Starting with a small weight, increase the load gradually while placing them at different points of the bridge to keep the weight well-distributed. You can use anything from small buckets of water to barbell weights and concrete blocks. If it fails, add reinforcements at the points of breakage.
Video Tutorial for a Popsicle Stick Truss Bridge
Popsicle Stick Bridge-Making Tips
- Do not use excess glue lest it shows up at the joints.
- Keeps your hands clean while working since oil and grease can make the joints weak.
- For fine-tuning your testing, you can suspend a bucket full of water from different points of the bridge to spot bending of the weak areas.
- Keep a record of the weight and dimensions of every bridge that you build. Otherwise, you will forget the details once you set to build a stronger bridge.
- To evaluate the performance of a bridge, you can take its efficiency (total mass held by the structure divided by its own mass) as a yardstick.
Popsicle Stick Bridge Designs
You can experiment with various types of bridges such as suspension, arch, and beam bridges to see which plan provides maximum support. Here are the plans of a few of them. Note the clever use of strings in the suspension bridge idea.
With the easy models and tips to guide you, you are all geared up to participate in bridge constructing activities. Just be careful to do proper testing of your model before attending any competition. Nevertheless, while participating, save up your time and resources to build a fresh one if anything goes wrong with your tried and tested prototype.
Published on January 30th 2016 by Papiya Dutta under Science Fair Projects. Article was last reviewed on 1st February 2016.