Leonardo’s Self Supporting Bridge

Did you know that Leonardo De Vinci invented amazing machines and structures for the military? We put his bridge design to the test!

It started with a small stack of short dowels. Some had 3 alternating grooves in them, others were without. And so we began building, piece by piece, we carefully added the pieces, weaving them in and out of other dowels. It was tricky and fairly delicate to construct. It fell apart many times before we got it all secured. What came next, was pretty  amazing….

Once all the parts were in place we wondered how much it could hold since it was pretty sturdy when we pushed down on it. We began stacking books on it… one book, five, 10, 15…and then, on the 16th book (a bird field guide) it was DESTROYED! Actually, we were surprised to see that only one of the pieces broke but it was easily glued together again, and then we took everything out to the lab to figure out more precisely what happened.

It turned out that the bridge weighed 1.4 ounces and was able to hold up 18.2 POUNDS of books and still stand! That extra half pound pushed it to its breaking point. Here are the stats:

Wooden bridge – 1.4 ounces

Books: 18.2 pounds – still standing

Books: 18.8 pounds – busted!

That means that for every ounce, it can hold over 13 pounds!! Think about THAT for a minute! Imagine an eastern bluebird (which weighs about an ounce) holding up 13+ pounds of books. That would be IMPRESSIVE!

We included a link to a video that shows how the pieces are put together and a link to Leonardo’s website to see other cool things he invented. Let us know what you think!







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