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Mt. Abraham Union High School's Applied Architecture II Class
Studies Covered Bridges

Paul Stetson, Instructor

The Assignment- Working in groups of three, build a 1:24 scale model of a covered bridge in our area.

Kate Pellegrini, Applied Architecture II - Shelburne Museum Bridge - The bridge project was very interesting and integrated building the bridge in the woodshop with finding mathematical formulae, drawing and constructing a "to-scale" model. The process began back in September with a 'Vermont Covered Bridges" field trip.

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 14, 2001
Shelburne Museum Bridge's top section (on side)
resting against the rest of the model bridge →

        Back in September, the class visited five Vermont covered bridges. Our job was to learn about each bridge by taking measurements of each covered bridge. We visited the Quinlan, Sequin, Charlotte, Shelburne Museum and the Lake Shore bridge. We found a lot of similarities and differences between the bridge's sizes, constructions, trusses, arches and materials used. Each group of two or three people blindly picked a bridge. We picked the Shelburne Museum bridge.
        When we returned to school, the project was continued by deriving a formula of 1':2". Every measured chord and beam was adjusted to scale and those were the measurements that we would use for the building of the bridge.
        The Shelburne Museum bridge was a two lane bridge with a gate and a covered walkway. We created several drawings of the bridge. They included a portal (opening) view, views of the floor, ceiling truss, and side arches from the point of inside the bridge. We also had a side view, top and bottom view from standing outside of the bridge. The drawings were drawn to the same scale as the model so that the width and length of different pieces would be the exact, length and width as the pieces of wood for the model we're building. (This was convenient for this way, materials could be laid right on top of the blueprints.)
Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 14, 2001
Finished Shelburne Museum Bridge build by Lindsay Spaulding,
Kate Pellegrini, and Darin Griner at a scale of 1:24 →

        The Shelburne Museum Bridge had a kingpost with a burr arch. To secure materials, we used a variety of methods including glue, nails, and dowels. My group members were Darin and Lindsay. We started off by building the floor of the bridge. While we nailed dowels in, we also cut the dowel pieces to size and then chiseled off the excess that stuck out of the bridge. Then we started to construct the roof truss. These pieces were a little. harder to fit properly because the middle chords ran at angles, and the chords had to be constantly sanded down to the appropriate sizes. After we built the walkway's roof truss. This was a hard piece of the project because the chords were very thin and had to be viced but they consistently slipped from their place. Next, we worked on finding the height and angles of the roof's slope. This was hard because, pieces again had to be sanded at angles so that they fit together at a point. Each triangular piece had to fit at the same point as the others. Then we attached the triangular pieces on each crossing ceiling beam and then hammered varying lengths of 3/8" wood in tiered fashion as shingles across the roof.
        We used many techniques to build the bridges and the bridge was constructed in multiple kingpost with a burr arch. It's finally done and it was a great project. Ω

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 14, 2001
Lake Shore Bridge built by Zach Laurie,
Levi Lindblad, and Leon Saourn →

Lindsay Spaulding - When we started this project, we took a field trip to the Charlotte area and took measurements of all the bridges and made sketches. After we compiled all ofour measurements and sketches, we selected a bridge to build.
        Our "lucky" group got stuck with the Shelburne Museum bridge, one of the only double lane bridges in the state. In addition to the double lanes, our bridge also had a walking path.
        Once back at school, we drew several drawings of our bridge in the scale that was decided. We drew side, front, and underneath views. We also had to draw the truss looking at it from the inside and a view looking up at the supports in the ceiling sections.
        When we started the construction of our bridge, we first made the floor level. We followed the same patterns that other groups used because we couldn't get underneath the bridge to view the structure. Next, we made the ceiling section. I started on the floor boards, nailing each strip of wood to the floor structure. Kate worked on the roof trusses, while Darin began the four main trusses. We all switched back and forth and worked on different jobs.

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 14, 2001Quinlan Bridge built by Tyson Rotax,
Curtis Layn, and Mark Holbrook →

        More recently, Darin and I completed the trusses with the vertical kingposts and the corresponding diagonals. Next Darin nailed the trusses into place on the floor boards, while I finished the shingles on the roof. I worked on the weather boarding on the sides and Darin has been working on the foot path. The foot path seems to be its own little bridge in itself.
        It's hard to say that I only worked on one section of our bridge, because we all worked on different sections. I nailed the floor boarding, made two of the four trusses, and finished the shingles. I also worked with Kate on the entire roof structure. This project was very interesting. I enjoyed building one of the LARGEST bridges in Vermont, even though at times it was very frustrating.   [This was part of their final exam. They had to tell me what they did in the building process - Paul Stetson]

Lindsay Spaulding (continued) - The covered bridge project that my Applied Architecture 2 class worked on was very time consuming, but also interesting. In the fall, our class went out on a trip to five local covered bridges. We measured and wrote down the dimensions of the different parts of the bridge. Once back at school we drew a series of five drawings to follow when we began the construction process.

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 14, 2001
Sequin Bridge built by Andrew Thibault,
Graham Huber, and Marcus Denice →

        The construction of our bridge (the Shelburne Museum Bridge) was difficult but when it was computed it didn't seem that long. With two other students working with me, all the pieces fit together making a beautiful structure.
        This project was one that I'll never forget. To spend an entire semester building a covered bridge was truly amazing. The finished project is something I'll keep for a lifetime. There's more to covered bridges than just wood. Ω

Covered Bridge Project Review By Heidi Neil - The covered bridge project was good. I didn't like the fact that we had to do drawings, thought they took too much time. I liked actually working on the bridges, although they took a lot of time.

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 14, 2001
Spade Farm Bridge build by Heidi Neil,
Chris Gale, and Dan Quiet. →

        I liked learning about the bridges; some of the stuff that we learned about was really interesting. I also liked going and looking at the bridges, although I wish we could have had more time to take measurements. I thought it was a good idea for us to take measurements of all the bridges, so that we would not just fool around while we were looking at the other bridges. I thought that it was a good project though. I really enjoyed it. Ω

A Word From Instructor Paul Stetson - The Applied Architecture courses at Mt. Abraham use a "hands- on" approach to study the field of Architecture. In Applied Architecture I, students complete units on: Geometric Shapes in Buildings, a study of famous architects including Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, designing a Dream House, designing a Mouse House, Structures, Roller Coasters, interior design, and Tree Houses. Students felt there was a need for a second level of the course so they approached me to develop one.

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 20, 2001
Construction of the Sequin Bridge. →

        The Vermont Standards that these courses assesses include: 1.15 Speaking; 2.2 and 2.3 Problem Solving; 6.4 Historical Connections; 7.7aaa Geometric and Measurement concepts; and 7.19 Designing Solutions.
        This is the first year the Applied Architecture II class is being offered. I have always had an interest in the design and history of covered bridges and felt this would be a good topic to explore. I also wanted to combine drawing and design work with the actual building of scale models.
        The Covered Bridge unit began with a discussion of the essential questions: Why were bridges covered? What is the Vermont folklore about covered bridges? How are covered bridges built? How many covered bridges are left in Vermont?. Along with the class discussions, students also searched the Internet to find answers to these questions.
        We next discussed the vocabulary related to covered bridges. This included names of building members and tools used. We also studied the different truss systems used in the bridges. Many thanks to Joe Nelson and Ed Barna for the information they included in their books on covered bridges.
Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 20, 2001         In early September we took an all day field trip to the five covered bridges in the Shelburne, Charlotte, Ferrisburg area. Students were divided into groups of three and were given tape measures and paper. They proceeded to sketch and measure each building member in the five bridges we visited. On the way back to school we had a drawing to see which group would build which bridge.
        The next few class periods (80 minute blocks), students worked on a set of drawings for their bridge. Using a scale of 1:24, they drew the floor system from underneath the bridge, the truss used to support the bridge drawn from inside the bridge, the exterior side of the bridge, the portal opening, and the ceiling framework drawn looking up while standing on the bridge.
         Once the drawings were complete, we moved the class to the woodshop and began the construction of the bridges. Students were taught the safety rules of the shop and how to operate the machines. They wanted to make the models as authentic as possible so they pinned many of the pieces together using small dowels.
        The students deserve a lot of credit for working through problems in construction. Through this unit, they learned the history and construction techniques of building covered bridges. Many students commented on how hard it must have been to build these bridges at full scale. They also learned to work together as a team to create some very impressive models.

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 20, 2001
Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 20, 2001

Students take measurements of each building member of the Lake Shore bridge (upper right and above left)
and Spade Farm bridge (above right)

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 20, 2001
Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 20,

Architecture II. Photo supplied by Paul
Stetson, March 20, 2001

Students begin the process of building scale models of five
Vermont Covered Bridges using a scale of 1:24 (above and left).

Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267, jcnelson@together.net

No part of this web site may be reproduced without the written permission of Joseph C. Nelson
Copyright © 2001, Paul Stetson
This file posted April 3, 2001