The sound of breaking glass

Glass structures made by students were tested beyond their breaking point, last Monday, December 7, 2015. The destructive test was the wind-up of the minor Bend & Break from the Faculty of CEGS.

As the force on the structure grew over 1,000 Newton, the tension rose. Students all around, wearing safety glasses, stopped their joking when the first cracks sounded. But like with ice in the winter, a loud crack doesn’t mean immediate failure. The force rose over 2,000 Newton and some more until finally a large crack appeared and the glass structure collapsed under the hydraulic press. The maximum force had been 2,190 Newton or say 220 kilograms. Who would have thought that three students could have stood on a glass structure before it collapses?

47 Bachelor students participated in the Bend and Break minor this year. Most of them study civil engineering, architecture, mechanical engineering or applied physics. Knowledge of mechanics and materials is a prerequisite for participation.

Students get to make constructions with steel, concrete, wood or glass. Lectures on analytical and numerical models should help students to predict the behaviour of their construction. All built constructions will be tested, often catastrophically so.

Dr Fred Veer (Architectural Engineering), who organised the glass construction for the minor for the seventh year, thinks it is important for students to work with real physical materials instead of just making mathematical models of reality. “Only experience will tell you when your models are not correct”, Veer added. He hopes that the physical experience will stimulate students to think ‘out-of-the-box’ and choose non-standard solutions. “After all, how else can architects innovate?” he asks rhetorically.

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