Phillip Talsma and Thomas Hagan, who were selected to ascend the south tower
From left: Rachel Hunter (Club President), Klay Ryon, Sarah Abell (Club Vice-President), Biidaaban Reinhardt, Lovedeep Singh, Andrew Middler and Josh McMullen.
The Northern Michigan University Physics Club recently visited the Mackinac Bridge Authority. An engineer gave a presentation on why and how the structure was built, how it is maintained and improved each year and special projects involving the bridge. Two students were selected in a random drawing to be accompanied to the top of the south tower, which extends 300 feet above the roadway. The remaining seven students were brought to the north anchor pier and taken 200 feet below the bridge to see how the main suspension cables are anchored to the ground.
“I very much enjoyed being a part of the trip to the Mackinac Bridge and having the opportunity to go to the top," said student Phillip Talsma. "The bridge trip really reinforced a lot of physics and engineering principles from the classes I have taken. It was also a wonderful tool to gain closer relationships with my classmates, professors and other physics fans.”
David Donovan, NMU Physics Club adviser and department head, said he has accompanied the club on about seven trips to the bridge over the past 12 years. The frequency depends on interest among students and availability of Mackinac Bridge Authority engineers.
“It is a great opportunity for our students to see an impressive application of physics and engineering," Donovan said. "The chance for students to learn from a working engineer about real-life problems and the successful solutions is just invaluable.”
Students took advantage of many opportunities to ask questions during the visit.
“The trip was very rewarding," said Thomas Hagan, who also got to ascend the south tower. "We learned about the engineering behind how the bridge was constructed, how the bridge is currently being maintained and a little history about how people would cross between the two peninsulas prior to the bridge's construction. I would go again if I were given the opportunity.”
Physics Club President Rachel Hunter said, “The trip was a very cool experience to learn about how they maintain the bridge. The history was interesting to hear about as well. Being part of the group that went down to the pier gave a better appreciation for just how big the bridge is.”