Bronxville News

Engineering Students Design Supporting Beams
Bronxville, NY

Equipped with cardstock and hot glue, Bronxville High School students took on the roles of engineers to construct beams and experience the product development process. As part of the project-based challenge in teacher Benjamin Cornish’s Introduction to Engineering class, the students built three different prototypes, tested them and improved upon their designs.

“They got to identify a real-life problem, design a potential solution, prototype it physically, test it and inform a design change,” Cornish said. “They got to experience the product development life cycle, which is circular in nature. It goes around – you test and keep repeating.” 

Having studied the history behind beams, how they operate, what they’re used for and the different ways they can fail, the students came up with their own designs for a beam before assembling their models. Cornish said the students were challenged to use limited supplies and adhere to specific length constraints for their beams. Then, the students tested their beams to collect data about how much weight their beams could support.

“There was no requirement for a specific minimum weight to support,” Cornish said. “Some beams supported more weight than we had available. Some failed quite quickly. Neither was right nor wrong. The objective was for the students to improve on their own designs and make their beams most efficient.” 

Cornish said that while the students used the same materials, they each had the freedom to choose what types of beam they constructed, which included I-beams, box beams, symmetric and asymmetric beams, as well as some that featured reinforcement gussets. The rigorous hands-on experience allowed the students to enhance their time management skills, learn how to collect data and manipulate materials for accuracy and precision. 

As a conclusion to their design-thinking unit, the students will write a report, reflecting on what they learned.