Engineers to build 32m Meccano bridge to cross River Lagan
27 April 2015
The Department of Civil Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast is aiming to secure a world record by building the world’s largest Meccano structure.
The ‘Big Bridge Build’ team – which is made up of students and staff from the university’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering (SPACE) – is to create a temporary bridge constructed entirely from Meccano, which will cross the River Lagan in Belfast. The bridge will be 32.2m long and 8m high, and its longest span will be 25m. It will be made up of 11,000 individual pieces of Meccano with a cumulative length of 3,835m.
Dr Danny McPolin, a lecturer at Queen’s, will lead the collaboration between the SPACE, AECOM and McLaughlin & Harvey building and civil engineering contractors. McPolin explained how the project came about after the university held a community outreach event last year to celebrate the life of one of Ireland’s most renowned structural engineers, Queen’s graduate and Dundalk native, Peter Rice. Rice graduated from Queen’s in 1956 and moved to London, where he worked for Arup before spending several years in Australia on Arup’s design team for the Sydney Opera House. His later engineering achievements include the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Lloyds Building in London.
“As part of last year’s celebrations to honour Peter Rice, the university engaged in some outreach work with local second level students,” said McPolin. “We bought Meccano and, together with Queen’s students and local youths, we built a 7m long footbridge. The project worked really well and seemed to inspire the undergraduate students. Throughout the project, we found that we had to go round and send students home at 7pm – students were still working on the project after hours.
“It became obvious that when the students were challenged and engaged with the project, they worked harder,” he continued. “We started to plan for this year and asked ourselves: what would be a really crazy project to take on? One aspect that was missing from the initial project was that the footbridge did not cross anything. That’s how this year’s plan to build a Meccano bridge to cross the River Lagan came about.”
Design students from the university will assemble the Meccano bridge in sections within SPACE and these sections will be transported and erected on site. As part of the university’s outreach programme, the students have been helped by school children who are considering a career in engineering. The social outreach aspect is a key feature of the potentially record-breaking project. Some 24 third-year Queen’s students are leading the design and construction, along with second-level students from ten schools in the area. Many of the students involved are from schools that would not traditionally engage with third-level institutions. Following the project, half of the Meccano used will be broken down and distributed to local schools as a learning resource.
The project is about inspiring students and potential engineers. “A lot of the work these students had done previously was book based – such as Euro codes and codes of practice. This project is a move away from that; we’re trying to remind them of what attracted them to engineering in the first place. Many of those involved would have begun their engineering apprenticeships as ten-year-olds playing with Meccano. We want to explore that further,” McPolin explained.
Construction began in March with assembly pencilled in for June. The construction event over the Lagan will take place in Clement Wilson Park, Belfast in September. The university has obtained permission from Belfast City Council to hold the event at the park and erect the temporary bridge.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2015/04/27/engineers-build-32m-meccano-bridge-cross-river-lagan/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-BIg-Bridge-Build-3.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-BIg-Bridge-Build-3-300x300.jpgNewsAntrim,bridges,construction,education,Queen's University Belfast,STEPS