By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
On Friday, I got to see the Golden Gate Bridge being built.
Derek Scholes, a junior at Pittsburg High School who is taking a course in the school’s Center of Applied Learning, was showing off a laser-cutting technique to the Kansas commissioner of education.
No disrespect to the commissioner, but when I found out what Scholes was cutting with the laser, I chose to stay behind and visit with him instead of continuing with the tour.
Scholes, who has never been to the real Golden Gate Bridge, told me that he is interested in architecture, so he decided to challenge himself to build a replica of the iconic San Francisco landmark.
At the beginning of the semester, he scoured photos online until he found the view he was looking for, then researched the specs of the structure to determine all of the components. One hitch in his plan was that to build the 8,000-foot-long bridge to true scale, a 6-foot model would be just 1 inch wide. So he modified his bridge so that it differs by width and length.
He had to design each and every piece, and he wanted the finished product to look as realistic as possible. That required using Google SketchUp for his initial architect’s rendering, then learning a new software — CorelDraw — that would allow him to draft the structure on a computer as a professional engineer would.
The project also required precision, as his model would be three-dimensional.
Scholes told me he was excited to go to the 55-minute class each day and get busy on the towers, the abutments, the trusses and the cabling. It was hands-on learning in the best sort of way, he said.
In coming weeks, he’ll finish using the laser, which reads information from the computerized program in order to cut pieces of plastic and wood. Then, he’ll begin assembly.
Some motivation is coming from another Golden Gate Bridge, a model borrowed from Pittsburg State University’s technology program, which sits on a cabinet top in the workspace.
“I wanted to outdo it,” Scholes said with a grin.
I can hardly wait to return to the school and see his finished project; I’ve driven over the real Golden Gate and imagine, from what I’ve seen, that his model will be a thing of beauty and craftsmanship.
Scholes said he’s not yet sure what project he’ll take on in the center next year, preferring instead to wait and see “where interests lead me.” He does know he’ll most likely leave his Golden Gate Bridge behind when he graduates.
“That way,” he said, “I can show other kids what’s possible.”
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