Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Structural Engineering for Kids 1- Humpty Dumpty & Structural Failures

Remember the nursery rhymes and songs your parents have read and sung for you just to put you to sleep? You or your parents may have not realized that when you were babies, you were unconsciously introduced to basic concepts of Structural Engineering whenever these nursery songs are played.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and
All the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty
Together again
This nursery rhyme is a favorite of my two kids. It is a lesson on structural engineering failures and instability. The egg-shaped Humpty Dumpty is an example of an unstable structure. A little push will make it roll and fall. Similarly, buildings or bridges will be damaged or will collapse if they are not properly designed and built against expected forces. Proper design of foundations, detailed analysis of connections, and correct design of structural members are necessary ingredients against structural failures. Minor damages such as simple cracks may be acceptable but structures must not collapse, such that they are beyond repair endangering people's lives.

Inspired by the Humpty Dumpty music, I created a short video clip about the damaged buildings during the 1990 Luzon Earthquake. Humpty Dumpty here represents Luzon and its damaged structures. Perhaps, nursery rhymes and children songs may be a good way of introducing Disaster Awareness and Preparedness to kids.

The idea of this blog was inspired from Henry Petroski’s book, “To Engineer is Human.” Petroski argues that “the ideas of engineering are in our bones and part of our human nature and experience.” This is a good book specially for non-technical people who wants to understand concepts of engineering design.


  1. Interesting...Humpty Dumpty has always been one of my son's favorite nursery rhymes. I've never thought about him falling due to structural defect! I'll have to pull the nursery rhyme book out and ask some questions to get him thinking about this possibility. Thanks! :)

  2. Thanks for the comment. There is more to come blogs about kids... hope you visit again.

  3. this is really nice. great stuff :)

  4. I believe construction of such projects requires knowledge of engineering and management principles and business procedures, economics, and human behavior.