Lessons in Civil Engineering

A few weeks ago XLB came for a visit. He is a Civil Engineer by trade and works in waste water (I shall avoid the possible puns). We knew this would be an excellent opportunity to have the David Macaulay architectural books read to the boys by a true ‘pro’. XLB was brilliant and taught them about arches and why they made things very strong. The XLB principle of building is that everything is either a shelf or an arch. Then he went through why an I beam was strong, demonstrating this with rulers and getting the boys to press on them in different directions. Also, we saw how a suspension bridge actually used an arch upside down, which is something I (Matt) had not noticed before.


The next thing we looked at was the model house that we had been building. This is made from a kit that I bought while trying to find something to bring back for the boys whilst on a business trip to Holland. I was very pleased with it as it felt like a great idea for a home-educating Dad to be bringing back. The kit is made by Teifoc and consists of small terracotta bricks and special mortar. After making the models and playing with them, the model can be soaked in water for a few hours to remove all the cement. Once soaked the kit can be re-used to make a different model (with new cement!). XLB and I had a go at helping the boys to build the house a bit higher. This worked well, he has great patience with them, more than I often have when trying to build it. I guess it helps that he feels a lot more confident he knows what he is doing with bicks and mortar. So far the house is going well, except that I’ve made the mortar joints too thick and the front wall of the house that has the door and windows in is a bit wonky. However it is the first attempt.


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