Primary school children address real-world engineering challenge

The importance of science, maths and education in our daily lives was emphasised to primary school children during a bridge building challenge.

Thirty children participated in a morning of engineering activities run by the Rochester Bridge Trust, only to discover they had been set the same challenge faced by the Trust’s own engineers 100 years ago.

The youngsters, who are in Year 4 at Hoo St Werburgh Primary School, took part in activities to learn about forces, loads, structures and different types of bridges, before being split into teams and given a task to complete.

Aileen White, Education Officer for the Trust, was running the challenge. She said: “We asked the children to find a solution for a bridge that keeps being damaged by tall boats hitting the underside of the crossing. This was a problem faced by the Trust’s own engineers at the start of the 20th century, with the answer being the creation of the Old Bridge we have today.”

Each team of four pupils was asked to create a model of their potential solution and pitch it to a panel of judges. The judges then made their decision based on cost, time and quality, which is a triangle of criteria used by engineers to evaluate the viability of a job.

Aileen added: “It was very impressive to see how the children applied themselves to the problem, talking through what they had learned earlier in the day and coming up with their own solutions. They really proved their potential as bridge designers and reinforced our belief that it’s never too soon to encourage youngsters to consider a future in civil engineering.”

The Rochester Bridge Trust visited the school as part of its engineering education initiative, which introduces the concepts of engineering to children and empowers teachers to share these lessons themselves. A set of 12 lesson plans is available to download for free and this challenge was part of the live testing process for a follow-up series.

Teacher Mrs Haskins said: “The children really enjoyed the hands-on learning of this bridge building challenge and it was great to see how well they applied themselves to the activity. That this all related to a local bridge that’s part of their everyday lives also helped them to understand the importance of classroom learning to the real world.”

For more information about the Trust’s engineering education initiative see, or find out more about the Year of Engineering at

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