The Bridge Blog A dialog about our new bridge and these web pages
Overview. As a pointy-headed
university professor, my weekend project of bridge photography and
building these web pages generated many questions and introduced me
to just-in-time learning. I enjoy chasing my curiosity and
want to identify ways to encourage younger learners to also enjoy curiosity
chasing and learning.
Learning usually requires repetition while forgetting occurs when
I infrequently use information. Many young learners do not understand
the importance of repetition. Weekly visits to the bridge provided
the repetition necessary to detect changes in the bridge and
many questions and opportunities for learning. Over the course of the
bridge project, I had access to few experts for answering questions.
Rather than a liability, this became an asset and pushed me to improve
my search skills with Google. Soon, I found that answers
to questions encountered during my weekly photo shoots were often
only a Google-search away -
Restoring the Joy in Learning). Consequently Google + Internet became
dependable extensions of my memory.
As many of you know, these bridge photo essays started as a simple way
for my grandchildren to watch the growing of the new Cooper River Bridge.
Sometime in the early spring of 2004, Bill Mankin of High Steel Structures,
sent me email with some comments about the web site. High Steel
fabricated all the edge and floor girders for the main span.
Bill's email and our subsequent exchanges changed
the web site from a Read Only web page to an interactive
Read Write web site that reflected information from our web
page community. Bill helped me understand some of the issues associated with
erecting the steel girders and later invited me to visit their facility
in Lancaster Pa.
Many engineers and many more armchair engineers have joined our
conversation. When I encountered puzzles, many were quick to respond
with answers. For example Joe Krolak, an hydraulic engineer with
the Federal Highway Administration, Bridge Divistion, helped me
understand how one stabilizes barges that support cranes while
erecting girders while Boyd Gregg,
a civil engineer with Black & Veatch in
Alpharetta, Ga helped me understand the concept of tensioning - specifically
when I encountered PBC tensioning the lateral tendons that stabilized the
central segment of the east and west pylons. So I copied and pasted
Boyd's explanation into the details
web page. When I really got into engineering trouble, David Wertz with
SCDOT and Marvin Tallent with PBC helped me understand what was happening.
More recently, Peo Halvarsson provided opportunities to explore different
aspects of building the main deck and Oliver Forget with Freyssinet
helped me understand erecting cable stay pipes and pulling strands of
cable. I had a chance to see many things that simply increased my
curiosity. During these times, I met Wilbur Poole, an iron worker who
also manages the hydraulic systems used to position the deck. All these
folks were my teachers and I transferred what I learned to these
But many many people simply sent email to encourage me to continue. These
are the people that energized me to continue my weekly visits to the
SC Aquarium to take my "core data". Then Tina Cotter got into the picture.
Her husband, Philip, an iron worker, named one of the deck erection
cranes "Last Dinosaur Standing", the kind of humor that really turns me
on. When Tina told me the crane story, I could not resist adding some humor
to the placement of the last concrete floor panel - was Philip signaling
the crane operator, or was Philip secretly waving to Tina? Look at the
photo above and you be the judge.
What I am trying to say is that this web site is a community project - not
just Frank Starmer taking photos for his grandkids. The stories and
photos reflect significant influences from two of my kids -
Michael told me a long time
ago that my photos were chaos. "Never take a photo unless you are prepared
to tell a story". Not only good advice, but great advice. Josh then
introduced me to the humor side of photo essays with his dialog associated
with photos of my work in south India
Gene Stead, chairman of Medicine at Duke,
was my first boss and taught me
the joy of learning. Gene asked lots of questions - not because he was
testing people, but because he was curious. Gene helped me to understand
that being curious was OK - not something that should be suppressed as
one becomes a teenager. My dad was also very curious and shared with me
that he never met someone from whom he could not learn something.
The Internet and Google level the playing field for all of us
curiosity chasers. And these web pages are really an experiment in what
I call Internet-centric learning. The days of teachers and
students are nearing an end and a new Internet-centric learning
paradigm is evolving. As with Gene - we are all learners in this world -
traditional teachers are more like senior learners while traditional
students are simply junior learners.
So these web pages are all about learning, my curiosity and
your encouragement. What started as a simple set of photos has evolved to
what we have now - a sort-of read write web site where many of you
contribute to my understanding aspects of building the new Cooper River Bridge.
I am grateful for your help, for your curiosity and for your encouragement.