Engineers bridge gaps in students' understanding

Thursday, December 4, 2003

It would take 85 large pizzas to stretch across the width of the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

Not the most technical fact about the $165 million project, but it's one that appealed to 675 seventh- and eighth-graders at Central Junior High in Cape Girardeau.

On Wednesday, the students got an inside look at construction of the bridge with a visit from bridge designer Steve Hague and Missouri Department of Transportation district engineer Scott Meyer.

The bridge opening and a dedication ceremony are planned for Dec. 13. The engineers' visit sparked excitement over the ceremony, but their main reason for coming to the junior high was seventh-grader Justin White.

White spent a day and a half gluing together small pieces of wood he bought at Hobby Lobby and ended up winning a bridge-building contest sponsored by MoDOT.

He received his award certificate Wednesday morning for building the model "least reflecting the likeness" of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

"We had the look-alike category and the bridge that holds the most weight category," Meyer said. "We wanted to promote thinking outside the box, so we came up with the least-alike category."

Hague used a computer presentation to walk students through the construction process from start to finish. He answered numerous questions from students, and explained how much he enjoyed sharing his love of engineering with young people.

Students eyes widened at the thought of the 243 million pounds of concrete and the 17 million pounds of steel that went into making the structure.

"It was very interesting," said 13-year-old Adam Wendel, who makes a weekly trip across the bridge with his grandmother. "I'm going to be really happy when I don't have to drive over the old bridge anymore."

cclark@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 128

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