What are structural engineers?
Structural engineers are creative innovators. They use maths and science to design structures, solve problems, and shape the world around us.
Structural engineers design structures to withstand stresses and pressures imposed through environmental conditions and human use. They ensure buildings and other structures do not deflect, rotate, vibrate excessively or collapse and that they remain stable and secure throughout their use. They also examine existing buildings and structures to test if they are structurally sound and still fit for purpose.
Working in close partnership with architects and other professional engineers they help to design most structures, including houses, hospitals, office blocks, bridges, oil rigs, ships and aircraft. It is the structural engineer’s responsibility to choose the appropriate materials, such as concrete, steel, timber and masonry, to meet design specifications and they are often involved in inspecting the work and advising contractors.
Attributes: observant, committed, tenacious
Today you have been designing and making bridges. We are lucky in the North East to have so many different designs of bridges as inspiration. We excellent examples of engineering such Tees Transporter bridge in Middlesborough, the seven bridges across the Tyne (see above) and the Northern Spire Bridge in Sunderland (see right), which opened in 2018. Can you find any examples of other types of bridges in the local area?
Can you build a bridge from materials you have around the house?
You might want to draw some plans before you start to build. What could you build your bridge from? You may have building blocks or other construction toys you could use. You may have scrap paper, empty cardboard boxes, toilet or kitchen roll tubes or food containers. Pegs for the washing line are useful to hold materials together. Sellotape or masking tape are also easy ways to stick things together. Remember to ask an adult in your house before you use anything!
Engineers try and test out new ideas all the time. Your first idea might not work, but it’s worth trying again. Mistakes are really important in engineering, they help us to learn, to change things and do things differently next time.
Could you create the tallest building in the world?
Look at the video on the left to see how the design of really tall buildings have changed and evolved over time.
Use materials you have around the house to build the tallest tower possible.
Did you use what you have learned from the video?
Could you rebuild it differently using what you have learned?
How could you make it even taller?
How are really tall buildings constructed?
Have you ever wondered about the materials and processes used to build skyscrapers? This video shows how two skyscrapers in Munich were built next to each other in just under eighteen months.
Do you think you could use what you have learned about building really tall structures to be a skyscraper engineer?
What else can I do at home?
There are lots of projects you can do at home for very little cost or by using materials you will have around the house. We like the 12 structure design ideas that we found here.
You may prefer to do some digital engineering. We found the tutorial on the right, which shows you how to build an oil rig in about seventy minutes.
What else can you create?