Baltimore bridge collapse becomes teachable moment for engineering students: 'I work harder'

Elaina Athans Image
Wednesday, March 27, 2024
Bridge collapse becomes learning opportunity for engineering classes
Engineering classes use the collapse of the Francis Scott Key bridge as a teachable moment for students.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Triangle engineering schools are now using the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge as a teachable moment for students.

Video of the incident can be difficult to watch. You see a cargo ship crashing into the bridge and then sections of the massive structure disappear into the dark water.

"(The ship) just hit one sweet spot, it just collapsed," said NC State student Rae Sellers.

"It's been really tragic just to hear about what's been going on with the families or whatnot," said NC State student D'Eric Chapman.

The next generation of engineers says the incident reiterates the importance of safety.

"I can say it gives me inspiration just the way I work harder in the class because it lets me know that what I'm doing in the classroom can actually help the cause with the future," said Chapman.

The bridge was built in the early 1970s.

WakeTech Construction Management Technology Interim Program Director Beth Ihnatolya says, "Ships were not as large as they are today, and this one wasn't able to withstand the collision from this vessel 50 years later. In our classes, we teach students about applying a safety factor, but this is a teachable moment to help students understand that we cannot just assume that once something is designed it will always function in the same manner. We must remember that the world around our designs is always changing so the safety measures we apply to our designs must evolve with the world around it"

Dr. Hessam Ghassemi, also a WakeTech Engineering Professor, assigned a class last week to research engineering disasters and he expects students to make presentations around the Maryland incident.

"The learning part of this is what was not updated over time, from the 70's until now," he said.

RELATED | Baltimore bridge collapse: 10 other ships stuck in Port of Baltimore