Bridge Walk Brings Classroom Lessons to the Real World

Imagine having the opportunity to ask questions of an expert working in your desired career path when you were a high school student…

Local area high school students are getting exactly that. Students are stepping outside of their engineering class and into the real world with the opportunity to visit the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and engage with engineering experts to learn more about the construction and maintenance of the massive structure.

The students came from all over the region, hailing from Wando, Stall, Ashley Ridge, Summerville, Cane Bay and Hanahan High Schools. They are currently taking a sequence of four to five engineering courses and have expressed particular interest in the field.

On March 16, 57 students were broken up into small groups of 8-10 and paired with one or two engineering partners to walk under the bridge from the parking lot to the water and talk about the building of a bridge and the collaborations that were needed to complete such a task, including the Town of Mount Pleasant, the City of Charleston, the counties, the State of SC and the port…all at once. Multiple groups also walked up on top of the bridge with their engineering professionals to learn more about the top of the structure and understand how the bridge supports different load patterns.

It was powerful seeing student’s faces light up when given the chance to contribute to the discussion based on what they learned in their classrooms. The opportunity to apply the knowledge, terms and procedures they gained through their engineering courses to the exploration of a beautiful landmark in Charleston is a favorite of both students and teachers alike.

Students learned answers to bridge engineering questions like:

  • How did they pour the concrete for all the pilings?
  • How did they decide what kind of drainage to use?
  • What did they do to protect the bridge from a ship hitting it?
  • How did they take down the old bridges?
  • What is the bridge built to withstand?

The engineering professionals also had some fun facts up their sleeves, including how many individual cables hold up the structure (128), the height of the structure (575 ft.) and the depth of the drilled shafts under the bridge (230 ft.). For example, did you know that the rock pilings that are visible at the base of each pillar are the size of an acre, but at the ocean floor, the rocks extend to 5 acres? Pretty cool, right?!

“When I ask students what their most memorable experience in my class was, they always respond with the Bridge Walk,” said Dr. Reeder, Project Lead The Way Engineering Teacher at Ashley Ridge High School. “They enjoy the opportunity to see first-hand that what they are learning is something they will actually use in their future career. We look forward to this experience each year.”

The Bridge Walk could not happen without our dedicated volunteers who share their knowledge and experience with these students. At the March 16 bridge walk, volunteers from Dorchester County, Freeland Construction, Reveer Group, Fly and Form, Infrastructure Consulting and Engineering and HDR Engineering took time out of their busy day to teach these students real-world knowledge in a career field they are passionate about – you can’t get that kind of perspective from a textbook.

The Charleston Metro Chamber is proud to engage our business partners and members into our Career Academies Program – career-themed schools within high schools, in which the learning environment reflects the atmosphere and expectations of the 21st century workplace. The bridge walk is in its fourth year and we plan to offer this opportunity, as well as others, in the future to engage more of our business partners.

Special Thank You to our 2018 Volunteers:

Allen Lindsey
Bill Dooley
Carly Gagne
Christine Trevillyan
Danielle Foulk
David Wertz
Diane Reeder
Greg Gerrish
Jason Carraher
Jerratt Merrell
Katie Johnston
Ken Canty
Kenny Wagner
Peggy Davis
Rhett Reidenbach
Russ Touchberry
Ryan Bamberg
Scott Baker
Justin Tye
Mindy Edwards
John Prorock
Thomas Singer
Vanessa Ballard

Future Bridge Walk Information:

All of the Bridge Walks are complete for this school year. If you are a civil or structural engineer or a bridge inspector and you would like to be notified about future volunteer opportunities, please contact Robin Willis at 843.805.3031.

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Volunteers Needed for 4th Annual Bridge Walk