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Bridges have been drawing plenty of attention lately, with numerous construction projects around the world and the controversy over the deteriorating bridge infrastructure in the US. They have been an essential part of transportation for hundreds of years, and it is the job of civil engineers to design the safest, most durable bridges possible.Bridge Basics (1) has a large list of different types of bridges with brief explanations. This is a good place for beginners to learn about various bridge designs and parts. The Web site of a nationwide engineering design contest (2) offers free West Point Bridge Designer software. This educational tool allows the user to create a custom virtual bridge model. Although this year's contest is over, another one is planned for next year. Rice University is the home of the Bridges Project (3), a comprehensive database of "all 74 1,000 ft. span bridges in the United States." For each of these, a short description and construction history are given, and some include photos and other interesting facts. The Gibraltar Bridge, a proposed nine mile bridge that connects Europe and Africa, was recently featured on the Discovery Channel's Engineering the Impossible (4). This Web site discusses its specifications, as well as the many challenges that must be overcome for it to be a reality. The Innovative Bridge Research and Construction Program (5) investigates new technologies that can be used in the "repair, rehabilitation, replacement and new construction of bridges" in the US. This is particularly important now, since a large portion of the countries bridges are badly in need of maintenance. A more specific area of research being conducted to protect bridge infrastructure involves the corrosion of steel reinforcements in concrete bridges (6). The material on this site provides an in-depth report on the findings of the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. Technical reports and papers are published in the bimonthly Journal of Bridge Engineering (7). It covers almost any topic related to bridges, and is offered free online by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Fun activities for grade school students are given on this page (8). Separated into three levels of difficulty, the projects give students freedom to learn about and design any kind of bridge structure that interests them. A list of materials and criteria are given, but there are few explicit instructions, allowing for maximum creativity.
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