Leonardo da Vinci Bridge
9 x 4. This "Emergency Bridge was a fast bridge-building technique thought up by da Vinci himself! Perfect for LEGOs or other small toys.
Leonardo da Vinci lived in warring times and he realized that one of the ways to stay safe and make some money was to have local powerful Dukes and patrons support him in his endeavours. At the time, Ludovico Sforza (Il Moro) was Duke of Milan and was a patron of many artists and architects, including da Vinci. During his time in Milan (and later on) he designed a number of interesting bridges. Having a good engineer to design castles, and weapons to defend (and keep invaders at bay!) was very useful for these Dukes and Kings, and Leonardo rose to the occasion and sketched many weapons - and means of defense for his patrons.
Leonardo made a number of cool bridge designs. As part of a civil engineering project for Sultan Bayezid II in 1502, he made a drawing of a single-span 240-meter (790 ft) bridge designed to span the Golden Horn Inlet (the name of the water body it was to cross). While never built,(the technology to make it didn't appear for another 300 years) its elegant lines have inspired a beautiful footbridge in Norway based on this design!
Leonardo also designed an early swing bridge, as well as a two-decked bridge for movement in two directions at once - the first commuter bridge!
Since early times engineers have designed many different types of bridges, each specific to the area it was needed. When there was river traffic, they would have to be high, or lift or swing, and when long they have to be cable stayed. Leonardo seemed to have considered many types of bridges and while he is famous for other things, there is little question he should also be famous for his bridge designs!
I always loved activities like this in school - they provide a real-life, hands-on example of how scientific concepts like physics, geometry, and technology apply to real life. Each kit includes the materials needed to build either a bridge or a tower model with real-life construction and engineering techniques. Once the structure is built, instructions tell you how to test the durability of the structure to its breaking point. It can be fun to have contests and see who's design is the best! Each kit includes pieces of balsa wood needed to construct one structure (about 15 pieces per kit), which are cut into strips that measure 1/8" x 1/8" x 24", 1 ounce bottle of wood glue, and instruction booklet. This booklet includes teaching tips, construction techniques for the various forms the structure could take, contest rules for comparing relative strength, a bit of general info about the history and engineering behind the structures, and, in the case of the tower kit, a large sheet of "B" sized graph paper to help with planning. With the wood pieces and helpful instructions and information, these kits provide a way to learn about physics and construction concepts in a realistic, hands-on way. ~ Rachel
The main purpose of these all-natural, untreated wood kits is to demonstrate scientific principles in action. Heres how they work: each kit comes as a set of pre-cut wooden pieces, which are assembled according to illustrated black and white instructions. Once you finish putting everything together, the set becomes a fully-functional scientific or historical representation. The catapult, for example, stands at 8 tall, 5 wide, and can fling small objects over 15 feet. But its not just a glued-together wooden frame with a rubber band attached; these kits are put together almost precisely how the real thing was, using only authentic parts. Small wooden pegs (miniature versions of the huge pegs used in the real deal) connect crossbars, supports, and pieces of the frame just as nails would in modern-day building projects. A tiny rope strung through the middle and wound by torsion bars gives the catapult its power, allowing it to hurl miniature stand-ins such as fruit, marshmallows, or even tiny rocks in the exact same way several-hundred-pound projectiles were once thrown in medieval times.
The attention to detail and precise engineering of these kits is absolutely wonderful. While this level of complexity increases the time it takes to put together these kits (about 1 to 2 hours), it also drastically improves the functionality and realism. Kids can learn not only how modern and medieval inventions were put together, but they can also see the scientific principles in action that make them work. The creator of these kits even suggests combining the medieval siege weapons with math and physics lessons to learn about trajectories and graphing. The hydraulics-powered Robotic Arm is a great example of a scientific principle in action. Using three different syringes on a control panel of sorts, the arm can be used to move up and down, turn, and grab objects between two foam panels.
All kits are fully interactive. Catapults and trebuchets throw things, bridges can turn and lift using cranks and other wooden controls, and hydraulic machines can be controlled by liquid-filled syringes. These kits are also made to be supplemented with other toys; kids can use LEGO figures or other toys to man siege engines or operate bridge controls as a miniature train or other vehicle starts to cross. For more advanced builders and artists, all kits can be painted piece-by-piece to look even better.