Learning how to build bridges at ICE

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Post by Olivia Perkins, section engineer

I was recently fortunate to be given a sneak peek at the Institute of Civil Engineers’ (ICE) latest exhibition, Bridge Engineering, its first from the new Infrastructure Learning Hub.

The exhibition, which opened to the public on 17 October and runs until April 2017, takes place in ICE’s library at One Great George Street, London and visitors can learn all about bridge engineering – and how bridges connect communities all over the world – through a variety of exhibits.

I think the Bridge Engineering exhibition is a great way of appealing to the younger generation and showing them the variety available in just one branch of civil engineering. Earlier this year, I was proud to have won the James Rennie medal, which promotes the achievements of newly qualified civil engineers, and I am passionate about the next generation of civil engineers being given the opportunities to develop as I was.

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Visitors to the exhibition will find inspiration in a variety of ways. Pictures, information and artefacts from bridge construction projects throughout history and across the globe make for interesting viewing. One of my highlights was the interactive presentation that showcases some of the engineers whose work had a massive impact our landscape, including Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Robert Stephenson.

The exhibition doesn’t just concentrate on the past; visitors can also learn about the UK (and Kier)’s latest bridge-building project, the Mersey Gateway. A six-lane toll bridge across the Mersey, it’s set to transform journey times when it’s complete and visitors to the exhibition can take a look at the construction programme through a 3D fly-through video.

Once visitors have explored the history of bridge building, there are lots of activities to take part in, from quizzes, to bridge Top Trumps, to a virtual reality bridge display.

Of course, the highlight of the exhibition is the world record-breaking LEGO bridge, which runs the length of the library. At 54ft, it’s made up of 262,550 LEGO bricks! Visitors can use it as inspiration while they build their own bridge – another of the activities available at the exhibition – which has the twin benefits of teaching them what a good bridge looks like and being a lot of fun!

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As well as being an entertaining day out for families and the general public, the exhibition is a great way to showcase this specialist branch of civil engineering. The focus on interactivity encourages visitors to really investigate the history and mechanics behind bridge building and I truly believe it will play an important part in inspiring some of the next generation of civil engineers into our industry, something which is vital to the health of our sector.

In my career with Kier, I’ve been lucky enough to work on some prestigious projects, including Crossrail, which will improve capacity and offer easier, more direct journeys across the capital once it’s introduced from 2017. My experiences on these schemes have helped me to take the next step in my career, and I’m looking forward to being able to point out some of the key infrastructure projects across the UK and saying ‘I helped build that’. I really believe exhibitions such as ICE’s Bridge Engineering will inspire others to look at a career that does the same.

If you’d like to find out more about the bridge engineering exhibition, please head over to ICE’s website.

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