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Basswood Bridges

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Hands-on Materials Science and Engineering

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.248.1 - 13.248.64



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Paper Authors


Harvey Abramowitz Purdue University Calumet

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Harvey Abramowitz received a BS in Materials Science, and MS and EngScD degrees in Extractive Metallurgy/Mineral Engineering, all from Columbia University. After graduating, he was a Research Engineer for Inland Steel, where he worked on metal recovery from waste streams. He is currently Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University Calumet. Prof. Abramowitz teaches courses in materials science and engineering, solid waste management, introduction to engineering design, and the freshman experience.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Basswood Bridges


The “Elementary Engineering Design” course for freshmen students at Purdue University Calumet consists of two components: one ME and one EE. Due to the two part structure and in order to expose the students to the faculty, it is also team taught. The course counts as two credits, with the format one hour lecture and three hours lab. The basswood bridge is the major project of the ME half and counts for one quarter of the total course grade. The object, as is usual with bridge projects, is to design, build and test a truss bridge having a high strength to weight ratio. The design process includes statics analysis in combination with the tensile and compressive properties of the basswood. The details of the project from initial design to final testing are provided.


At Purdue University Calumet (PUC), freshmen engineering students have been required to take the course “Elementary Engineering Design” (ENGR190) for over three decades. The goals of the course are:

1. To acquaint students with the design process and the creative challenge inherent in design engineering through the medium of individual design and construction projects. 2. To provide insight into what design engineers do.

The course is a two credit course that consists of a one hour lecture and a three hour laboratory. Every semester the course is given. The Fall semester, which is the first semester for a typical freshman entering college directly from high school, will have two to three sections. Each section can handle 25 students, so for the Fall a maximum of 75 students can take the course. For the Spring semester, the course is scheduled for late afternoon or evening to accommodate students who work full time. One to two sections are usually on the schedule, so up to 50 students can fulfill the requirement in the Spring.

For many years, the laboratory projects were strictly mechanical in nature: a basswood bridge and a mousetrap spring driven car. Since the projects were in a single discipline, the course was taught by a single instructor for both the lectures and laboratories, with additional instructors added to laboratory sections as needed. Around ten years ago, it was decided to split the course in two, with half being oriented to mechanical engineering and the other half to electrical engineering. This made sense since the Department of Engineering offered majors in mechanical, electrical and computer engineering, and student surveys indicated a desire for an electrical component in the course. In recent years, the single Department has been divided into a Department of Mechanical Engineering and a Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Therefore, it was decided to team teach the course using instructors from the different disciplines. The first time this was tried, five instructors were used with each teaching for 3 weeks. The three from ME had expertise in structures, heat transfer and fluid flow, and

Abramowitz, H. (2008, June), Basswood Bridges Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4111

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