Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Design Virtual Bridges With West Point Bridge Designer

West Point Bridge Designer is a challenging engineering game where your goal is to design and build virtual bridges for the lowest possible cost. Unlike the simplistic, fun oriented bridge building game Cargo Bridge, West Point Bridge Designer is designed to be realistic.

One of the purposes of the West Point Bridge Designer 2012 is to provide a realistic, hands-on experience that will help players understand how civil engineers design real structures. While many aspects of the software accurately reflect the structural design process, a number of significant compromises have been made to keep the program from getting too complex. WPBD is intended as an introduction to engineering design, with emphasis on the design process, rather than the detailed technical aspects of structural design.


As a player you have to plan and design a virtual steel bridge to carry a two-lane highway spanning a river, in much the same way that practicing civil engineers design real highway bridges. Your goal is to design a bridge that doesn’t collapse when a load is put on it while trying to obtain the lowest possible cost in the process. You may choose from a wide variety of different site configurations for your bridge, and you also have at your disposal all the basic structural elements such as bars, beams, columns and joints.

The game takes care of all heavy-duty mathematical calculations, so that you can concentrate on the creative part of the design process.


Once your first design attempt is complete, you will be able to test your bridge to see if it is strong enough to carry the specified highway loads. This test shows a colorful animation of a truck crossing your bridge. If your design is strong enough, the truck will be able to cross it successfully; if not, the structure will collapse. During the crossing the stress on various elements of the bridge will be highlighted by color allowing you to gauge which elements need replacement or strengthening.

If your bridge collapses, you can strengthen it by changing the properties of the structural components that make up the bridge, or by changing the configuration of the bridge itself. Once your bridge can successfully carry the highway loading without collapsing, you can continue to refine your design, with the objective of minimizing its cost while still ensuring that it is strong enough to carry the specified loads.

West Point Bridge Designer is developed by the West Point Military Academy in the USA, who use it to run a large annual contest. The contest is open to students of age 13 through grade 12, who are currently enrolled in schools in the United States. However, anyone can participate in the West Point Bridge Design Contest – you just won’t be able to advance to the Qualifying Round and compete for prizes. Prizes include $10,000 in scholarship and a notebook computer.

2013 West Point Bridge Design Contest will start on January next year. See this page for more details about the contest.


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