Canton Students Tackle Pratts Mill Bridge Replacement

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The model bridges at top were designed by sixth-graders at Canton Elementary School in response to the recent collapse of the Pratts Mill Bridge (above) just east of town.

Photos and Story by Rick Hiduk

For the past four years, Canton Elementary School sixth graders have been given a project to design and build model bridges as part of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) initiative. This year, bridge building took on greater significance when the community suddenly lost a vital link. (Read about it here: http://www.endlessmtnlifestyles.com/?p=7439)

Heavy rains leading up to May had already damaged the Pratts Mill Bridge east of Canton, requiring its closure. An overnight soaker the first weekend of May pulled the span into the creek.

With the collapse of the Pratts Mill Bridge just a few days before the project began, the students were given the unique challenge of designing a replacement,” related math instructor Katie Steever, who collaborates with art teacher Courtney Grieve on the projects. After watching videos and looking at photos of various types of bridges, “students were shown pictures of the Pratts Mill Bridge and encouraged to design a bridge that would fit in that spot.

Employing all of the aforementioned curricular elements, 74 sixth-graders were given a $1.5 million budget and asked to calculate the cost of materials, labor, site investigations, and foundations. Under Miss Grieve’s direction, the students tackled the design of the bridge, choosing from beam, suspension, truss and arch for the appearance of the structure.

As many details of a real construction project were taken into consideration, Mrs. Steever explained. “If they needed extra time to complete the project, they were charged overtime for the labor and double the cost for non-budgeted materials,” she explained. The final test was seeing if the model could bear a five-pound weight.

The students gained insight in the design process and how the professional roles of artists, engineers, and accountants can work together to complete a project,” Mrs. Steever noted. “It has evolved into a project that students look forward to when they reach their final year at Canton Elementary School.”

Some of the best bridge models were sent to the Bradford County Courthouse for the commissioners, who were also tackling the loss of the Pratts Mill Bridge, to admire.

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