A New World Record

Engineering students from Queen’s have set a new world record after building a 100ft bridge made entirely from Meccano.

Designed and built by third year Civil Engineering students and local school children, the temporary Meccano footbridge, which spanned more than 100 feet across Belfast’s Clarendon Dock, was unveiled at a free public event on Saturday 19 September.

The ambitious year-long Big Bridge Build project was the brainchild of academics and students from the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, as part of the University’s outreach programme to encourage more children to think about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Around 11,000 pieces of Meccano were used to build the bridge, which weighs 600kg (around 1,300lbs).

A representative from Guinness World Records was on hand to confirm - officially - that the project had earned a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest ever Meccano construction. The students celebrated their achievement by walking across the bridge, which was officially declared open by Meccano’s Meccanoid Robot, much to the delight of attending youngsters.

The project received funding from the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, AECOM, Meccano and Queen’s Annual Fund with technical support and advice from civil engineering contractors, McLaughlin and Harvey. Smyths Toys and Belfast Harbour also supported the event.

Hundreds of people flocked to Belfast’s Clarendon Dock over the weekend to marvel at the stunning construction as they waited to hear the official announcement of the World Record bid. The project was made possible with the help of Spin Master Corp, the owners and producers of Meccano, as well as McLaughlin & Harvey and Aecom who gave valuable advice to the students and assisted with the construction and installation of the bridge across the Dock. Dozens of individuals were then lucky enough to get to walk cross the bridge which is held together with 60,000 nuts, bolts and washers.

Speaking about the achievement Danny McPolin, Senior Structures Lecturer at Queen’s School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, said: “This event has been a fantastic way to celebrate the student and staff’s incredible work over the past year, but also a chance to show local children more about the exciting courses we offer here at the Queen’s University.

“With a growing skill shortage in Civil engineering, we hope that our work will encourage more children to consider the study of civil engineering and other STEM subjects at University level.”

Members of the public who attend the event had the opportunity to speak to students and academics, as well as the event sponsors, who were on hand to discuss the bridge build and civil engineering in general.  Youngsters were also able to create their own Meccano structures in a dedicated gazebo sponsored by Smyths Toys Superstores.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's milestone event, Head of School Professor Trevor Whittaker - one of the first to cross the bridge - said increasing the number of Civil Engineering graduates was key to securing a prosperous economic future for Northern Ireland. “STEM subjects open doors to some of the world’s most exciting careers, and our graduates leave Queen’s with skills that set them apart in a very competitive job market," said Professor Whittaker. "Our alumni are making a difference in industry and academia worldwide, and with the global construction market set to grow by 70 per cent by 2025, our graduates will continue to make a visible, lasting impact on the world," he added.

Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure Carál Ní Chuilín said: “This innovative project underlines the importance of creativity in design and the built environment. It also gives many young people the opportunity to sample a career in civil engineering.

“While underlining the importance of the creative industries, the Meccano bridge shows what can happen when we take new approaches and look for innovative solutions. While this initiative is as much about the journey as the destination, to end with a new world record would be a fantastic achievement. It would truly reflect the efforts of all those who have taken an unusual idea and turned into a creative reality.”

The project attracted the interest of some notable figures, including Dame Athene Donald, Lord Richard Rogers and Grand Design’s Kevin McCloud all of whom sent messages of support.

The Meccano bridge was lit up during the evenings of Friday 18 and Saturday 19 September, before being dismantled on Sunday.

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