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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 consequently generated 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 - (see Restoring the Joy in Learning). Consequently Google + Internet became dependable extensions of my memory.

The bridge story is a work in progress and is evolving from a simple collections of photographs to an experiment with Internet-centric just-in-time learning. Insights I gain from you will find their way into the learning centers of MUSC. Palmetto Bridge Constructors, a joint venture between Tidewater Skanska and Flatiron Constructors, as well as High Steel Structures, Freyssinet, the SCDOT and the Federal Highway Commission Office of Bridge Technology guided much of my learning. I also learn from many of you and from Google-linked resources. More important is the e-mail encouragement I receive from many of you.

Thu, 21 Jul 2005

July 21, 2005: Transition from building to unbuilding

The construction of the new Cooper River Bridge is complete. The fireworks and opening ceremony, from my perspective, breathed new life into our community. Certainly use of the bicycle and pedestrian walkway during the first days demonstrated both their utility and the vision of the bridge sponsors.

There is a first chapter and a last chapter with every story and our bridges are no different. I have started preparations for keeping our stories alive, now as historical documents. As a first step, I am moving the Internet address of the Ravenel Bridge story to This will provide a stable location and facilitate transition of the site to a future home, perhaps the Charleston Public Library or the Historical Society. I have not explored this with any agency, but it seems to me that our web site (yes, not mine) would be better preserved under the leadership of a public agency.

Yesterday I started the first chapter of the unbuilding of the Grace and Pearman bridges. I have moved the Internet address for our new story to I shall continue to take weekly, and in some cases, daily (early morning and late afternoon) photos of the Charleston approaches, Mt. Pleasant approaches and the main bridge spans. In addition, I will build a new section addressing engineering issues and insights, similar to the Engineering and Close-ups section I developed around the construction of the Ravenel bridge.

Many of you have fed me ideas and questions. As we start our new story, please continue to write me. Let our learning continue!.

posted at: 03:45 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sun, 17 Jul 2005

July 16, 2005: The meaning of a signature bridge

From Walter Baker in California:
I saw a news article on the opening of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. I put its name in a search engine and fortunately found my way to your website. I became wonderfully distracted by your photographic documentation of the bridge construction. I want to thank you so much for the time and effort you put into this project. You live in a beautiful area of our great country and now it has been crowned by a wonderful work of art. I offer you the following.

Easy it is to be cynical,
In the days in which we live,
But every now and then,
A ray illuminates the darkness
And spans the gap to heal.

A sense of unity once thought lost
Found on the other shore,
And brought home to rest
In the warmest place once more.

There will be times when this is forgotten
And all the worlds in a rage,
But from a distance its image shines,
The crossing place forever in the mind.

W Baker

posted at: 05:31 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Sat, 16 Jul 2005

July 16, 2005: The meaning of a signature bridge

Yesterday, Vince Streano, David Wertz and I revisited the top of the west tower. It was almost 1 year ago (July 21, 2004) that David and I visited the top of the west tower - at that time looking at a number of bridge engineering issues. Among them was the cabling process managed by Olivier Forget from Freyssinet - and the time was near the end of "le Tour de France". During an earlier visit to the top of the west tower, I noticed a concrete tablet on the floor (upper left) with the names of many of the construction workers. Dumb Frank did not record this photographically at the time. This time I was not going to repeat the same mistake twice. Not only did I take several photos of the tablet, but I found Philip Cotter's and Lewis Williamson's names on the tablet. Philip and Lewis are iron workers, a very special breed of man that suspended themselves while erecting edge and floor girders and placing the concrete floor panels. Philip's wife, Tina, exchanged a number of emails with me about Philip and his artistic and literary skill - naming the last main-span crane (east side) the "Last Dinosaur Standing" (see for the dinosaur story).

Here, permanently placed on the top of the west tower is a symbol of the worker's bride. Many signatures are absent - but the pride runs all the way from Bobby Clair through Wade, Peo, Marvin, David and Olivier all the way to me - as these folks opened doors that enabled me to bring to you much of the untold stories behind building our Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

And a final note about the Internet and learning. The Internet provided me a medium that enabled me to share with you what the bridge folks shared with me. Not only that, the Internet provided a communication medium that linked me with Bill Mankin at High Steel, with engineers at the Federal Highway Administration, Bridge Division, with Buckland and Taylor, T. Y. Lin, HDR, Freyssinet and Tidewater Skanska. Governor Sanford and Bob O'Brien even provided input. In the end, Bob has suggested that I explore transfering this web site to the Historical Society or the Library - a wonderful strategy for breathing new life into these pages.

So from me - smiles and a big thank you to all of you!
Frank Starmer, Medical University of South Carolina.

posted at: 12:02 | path: | permanent link to this entry

Mon, 04 Jul 2005

July 4, 2005:
Le Tour de France and our International Family

The 2005 Map of Le Tour de France: A one year anniversary of close encounters with bridge builders:

Almost a year ago (July 21, 2004), David Wurtz gave me my first bridge building seminar on the platform of the west span. As part of our seminar we made a visit to one of the cable construction stations in the interior of the west pylon which is how I discovered Freyssinet. Later Olivier Forget, the leader of the international Freyssinet team, as well as Eduardo, Cyril, Jose, Pavil, Bruno, Philiu and Niko joined our seminar and helped me to understand the design, construction and testing of stay cables. Now, a year later, the Tour de France has just started and I am remembering the excitement of my first visit to the main span. Wade, Peo, Marvin, Brian, Lori, Wilbur, Derik and many many others gave these pages a bit of life. Thanks to all of them!

posted at: 10:00 | path: | permanent link to this entry

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