Bridging the gap from the classroom to the real world… Hampton High School students turn a prototype into a full-scale completed bridge

Published 8:46 pm Friday, April 30, 2021

One of the toughest lessons sometimes for a student to wrap their brains around is how something in a classroom can be taken beyond the four walls of their school and put into application in the real world.

Daniel Arnett, who is a master of taking his students on a journey to unravel a world of possibilities, continues to come up with creative ways that his students can put into play things they have actually done in the classroom and carry it outside the four walls of his classroom.

That project was brought to completion at the Carter County School Board Office on Friday by students of his Architecture and Engineering Design Class as they took a prototype bridge built by classmate Joseph Jenkins and turned it into a full-scale usable bridge that now crossed a small creek between the Carter County School Bus garage and the Carter County Technology Building.

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Jenkins actually designed the bridge a little over a couple of years ago for competition at the University of Tennessee but with the COVID-19 keeping extracurricular activities at a minimum, Arnett was hoping for something like this kind of project to continue to challenge his students with.

The class did all the work from using post hole diggers to dig the holes and set the poles to cutting the correct angles on the bridge and putting down the walking boards across the bridge as one of the final pieces of completion.

For Jenkins, at the time when he was working on his prototype, he had no idea that a few months down the road he would actually be seeing a full-scale bridge built to meet his model’s specifications.

“It feels good and makes me feel like it was worth something and I am very happy about it,” said Jenkins. “I am proud that I had the opportunity to do something like this.

“I didn’t think this much stuff would actually happen outside the classroom. It has really interested me in the architectural side of engineering for a career — something like architectural or drafting.”

Jenkins said it was really fun just working with his classmates to build the actual bridge and appreciates all the help that he has received from Arnett, especially when introducing him to some people at Appalachian State where Jenkins hopes to attend after completing some basic courses at Northeast State before transferring.

Someone else who has a special interest in seeing that the students had an opportunity to participate in a project such as this was Steve Walsh, the Carter County Schools Building and Grounds Supervisor.

“This is important for the kids who have designed it and worked on it after winning awards for it,” Walsh said after stopping by with a saw for the students to finish the project with. “It is some good publicity for them because it lets the community know what good classes that we have in the county and how the kids actually work in the trades.”

Walsh also felt that it was important for the students to know that what they see in a classroom setting is not always what they will get when they go outside into the real working area as many times they may be finding themselves scrambling to come up with answers on the fly.

“The real world is different than in the classroom because in the classroom everything is laid out and you have everything you need but when you get out and actually start working you have to improvise and you don’t always have exactly the right fit and have to figure things out to make them work and this is a real good experience for the students.”

After working tirelessly, the time finally came for the final screw and board to be placed and the dirt to be filled around the bridge posts.

It was another great job well done by the students of Arnett’s Architectural and Engineering Design Class at Hampton High School.