Model ‘Mathematical Bridge’ designed to inspire future engineers

It’s definitely not too early to start thinking about Christmas, and here’s a product you might want to add to your list of gifts to buy, or receive this year – a miniature replica of Cambridge University’s world famous Mathematical Bridge.

The product, which will come flat-packed and is designed for assembly at home, is the brain child of Ponticulus Design – a new Cambridge-based start-up company founded by local Cambridge punter and aerospace engineering graduate Ben Butler.

“What started off as a fun challenge, has turned out to be something that I believe could help inspire the next generation to become enthusiastic about engineering.”

Ben Butler

After finishing his degree, Butler was dared by one his colleagues to redesign the Mathematical Bridge without taking any measurements. Three years on and Ponticulus Design is launching a DIY Mathematical Bridge kit so that members of the public, future engineers, and model enthusiasts can replicate it.

“We believe that outside of the professional industry it’s important for youngsters to practise the skill of modelling from a young age to enhance their engineering minds. This gives them a foundation of knowledge that they can draw on throughout their lives,” Ponticulus wrote alongside the KickStarter campaign.

“We’re very passionate about bringing the bridge’s unique design into the hands of those interested in the complexities of engineering, fascinated by structural design or just to anyone who’s fond of Cambridge and the beauty of the bridge in real life.”

Much-loved and admired by Cambridge residents and engineers alike, the bridge featured is one of the most recognisable structures on the Cam. It was built in 1749 by James Essex the Younger.

A legend among university students claims that the bridge was designed by Sir Isaac Newton, and was originally created without any nuts or bolts, until a group of students disassembled the bridge to discover how it stood up and then couldn’t put it back together again.

In fact, the bridge was originally built 22 years after Newton’s death and the design was actually the work of English civil engineer and architect William Etheridge. Also, while it has been rebuilt twice, it has always included fixings at the joints; these were just less visible on the original structure.

A KickStarter campaign to help get the product off the ground was launched on 31 October, and quickly surpassed the initial £3,000 target needed to ensure the finished product is available in time for Christmas.

“I am really excited about sharing the amazing design with people all around the world,” said Butler. “I would encourage those who are interested to pledge on the crowd-funding website KickStarter so that they can give it to their loved ones as a present for Christmas.”

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