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Old Bridge society puts on bridge-building event

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The Old Bridge at Sunset Beach (at its new home on the Sunset Beach mainland) has been visited by hundreds of locals and visitors, some from as far away as Washington State, during the summer of 2011.

Every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 4-7 p.m. there is a variety of activities designed to be fun and educational.

So what was it like to build a structure like the Sunset Beach Bridge? It was an engineering marvel when Mannon Gore built the first one in 1958. It was later acquired and maintained by the state in 1961 until it was decommissioned with the completion of the Mannon T. Gore Bridge, which was opened to traffic in November 2010. 

On June 28 and July 12, visitors were able to put themselves in Gore’s shoes by participating in the Build a Bridge Challenge.

Kim and Carolyn Loucks of Teaching and Learning Connected shared with the assembled group a few bridge facts. Then participants decided if they wanted to work as a team or as individuals. There were father and son teams, grandfathers and grandsons, a group of moms and their children working together, and then adults, pre-teens and teens that decided to work alone.

All participants were given a standard set of supplies...spaghetti, straws, marshmallows, mailing labels, paper clips, index cards and toothpicks. Each team also received two 6-inch bridge supports that had to remain more than 12 inches apart. Using only those materials, teams and individuals had 10 minutes to create and design a bridge of their own. 

Then, the bridges were tested to see how much weight, in pennies, each would hold. Everyone was a winner but one bridge held the weight of 115 pennies.

Participants got a sense of what Gorehe thought about during the bridge-building process and were able to complete some trial runs. They then held their breath as the pennies were piled on. 

People of all ages participated, from adults to pre-schoolers. The Build a Bridge Challenge is founded in science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum. The Build a Bridge Challenge is a way to infuse critical thinking skills into a summer vacation.

Bridge builders of all ages are invited to take their turn at the next challenge, which will begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 2, Aug. 18 and Aug. 30 at the Old Bridge site at 109 Shoreline Drive in Sunset Beach. Come early (about 5 p.m.) and see Mr. Strickland’s working model of the Old Bridge and hear tales from Mr. Theimer, a former bridge tender.