Grant helps shake up learning activity

A civil and structural engineering firm is challenging children to think about buildings that can withstand earthquakes, thanks to a grant from the Rochester Bridge Trust.

Tony Gee and Partners LLP, which has an office in Ashford, has been given more than £170 to buy materials for its STEM in schools initiative.

Justin Ryan, Regional Director at Tony Gee, said: “We first developed our activities three years ago, challenging children to build structures out of wine gums, marshmallows and sticks, to see which would last the longest when placed on a shaking table that simulates an earthquake. With the help of the Rochester Bridge Trust’s Education Officers, we have now developed the activity to use K’Nex. This allows us to demonstrate a range of engineering principles to pupils of all ages, from the fundamentals, such as bracing, to the complex, such as resonant frequency, by incorporating additional instrumentation and data processing.

“We use the K’Nex to demonstrate tower building techniques, then set youngsters the task of building the tallest tower to survive the shaking table. This grant has enabled us to buy all the extra K’Nex parts we needed, we are grateful to the Trust for their help and financial support.”

The new kit was recently used to take the activity to River Primary School in Dover, with another session booked at Great Chart Primary School, Ashford, in the coming weeks.

Mark Hooker, a civil engineer at Tony Gee commented: “We ran the shaking table activity with two Year 5 classes at River primary, explaining the different forms a tower can take and challenging teams of children to build a metre tall tower.

“The pupils really enjoyed working in teams to carry out a practical task that took them away from exercise books, and it was great seeing how they applied themselves to the challenge. The teachers also told us how pleased they were, as practical thinking and its application is something they are keen to develop more of in the classroom.”

Visit to find out more about the shaking table activities. For information about the Trust’s education grants, or download Learning about Bridges, a book of 12 free lesson plans.

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